September 29, 2014

I said yes!

You know that picture of a cartoon couple holding hands with the caption "when I first met you I had no idea you would be this important to me"?  Well when I first met Haruna and all of the time we were friends, I had no idea that, that guy I used to stroll around the neighbourhood with and that guy I used to go out to eat Shawarma with was going to be my future husband. 

There were no tell tale signs; no thunder, no butterflies, no alighting doves and certainly no loud voice from the cosmos saying "this is my son in whom I am well pleased, marry him".

It was pretty random.

A gradual realization that this was one decent guy in my circle who was always helpful, respectful and caring to me and all his friends.

The window of time where we both weren't seeing anyone.

The timing when I was ready to date again.

The experience that taught me the fine line between love versus compatibility, looks versus chemistry, religious background versus Christian character, one tongue versus one language, exposure versus experience, age versus maturity, differences in upbringing versus similarity in values, not being able to choose the family one is born in versus being able to choose the family one is starting, being the child of one's parents yet being the adult they raised.

The change of heart and shift in mind that made me a lot more willing to take chances in deciding who to date because I tossed the mind set that someone was not "my type" when the truth that you would never know if someone is your type until you get to know the type of person they are, set me free.

The awareness that dating is a time to ask questions before it gets too close and personal to scrutinize answers.

The best practice that pays attention to the opinion of friends, family and pastoral care about the person you are dating.

The agreement that time will tell and actions will speak not words.

The quiet witness when I joined in melody with him yet felt a harmony with myself.

The sense that God was guiding me somehow; causing me to stumble on something I didn't know; leading Haruna to speak to my deepest fears; making him hear my unspoken needs.

The unwritten commitment to persevere through every storm and the determination to give to our commitment, our best and our all.

It was in the gathering evidence of the small and random, the slow and deliberate, the routine and mundane that our resolve hardened - not that we were meant to be but that we meant to be!

It was our decision and we didn't put the responsibility of staying together on the signs; the thunder, the butterflies, the doves or the loud voice from heaven just as we didn't credit our being together to them too! 


September 22, 2014

At a Loss

I didn't spare myself from looking at the lifeless body of a friend who made an unexpected exit from this realm without warning. It was hard to accept that she had left which was precisely the subconscious reason I went to see for myself.

If she were simply asleep, she would adjust her neck which was resting at an uncomfortable angle. Did it mean, she was dead?

If she were alive she would be uncomfortable in a closed box. But she didn't bang against it for air, or yell and scream to be let out. Did it mean, she was dead?
If she were alive, she wouldn't need to be hidden from view beneath the ground. But she wasn't above it with me, so did it mean she was dead? 

Whenever I found myself fighting with reason, the pictures of reality would flash in my mind's eye and I would give up my questions and just cry.

I didn't spare myself from going to the graveyard.

Death was a part of life, why run away from the reality that it happens or the reminders that it can happen to anyone?

I didn't spare myself from witnessing her being laid to rest.

Grief was a part of the spectrum of emotions allotted to human experience, why feel some and repress the feeling of others? 

I didn't spare myself from crying till my heart felt like it would break.

I had lost something.

It slowly dawned on me that when someone dies, we loose their physical presence and the relationship we have with them is not only rudely interrupted but abruptly ended.

We can't call them and say how shocked we are that they are suddenly gone or relay our experience of their death!

I had lost something.

There would be no more sharing and no more continuity. I would only be able to re-live experiences, remember interactions and imagine responses.

I remember the feeling of wanting to snatch everyone by the shirt and say "don't ever do this to me, I don't ever want to feel this way again".

Later, while writing something of a parting message on a platform someone had provided for mourners to express their grief, I stumbled on a new understanding of the phrase- "Let the will of the Lord be done". 

I realised that when people said it, it wasn't that they were accepting the situation but they were accepting their powerlessness to change it. It wasn't ironical then that it was the go-to expression where death was involved. 

"Chidinma, let the will of the Lord be done with us here on earth as it is done with you there in heaven."

As I wrote those words, I knew they were symbolic of that final white flag of quiet surrender in the face of things beyond my control.



*While writing this, I struggled with putting up an image to go with this post, I didn't want to put her picture and wanted to reflect this decision by putting a blank image but it didn't feel right either, until I realised I was avoiding reality...*

September 16, 2014

The case of the missing Alabaru- another Lagos adventure!

Lagos always presents an adventure for me, and I hardly ever come back from a trip without a story to tell. This one takes its setting in Idumota, the market where I got introduced to "The Alabaru!"

In the North, it is common to find Dandokos- young boys wheeling barrows through the narrow passage ways of a busy market behind shoppers who toss a growing load of food items, clothes, utensils and supplies unto their make- shift carts for a small fee.

So I was in Lagos recently with a party of three on one such mission and after spending 90% of the time searching for what I wanted and the other 10% negotiating with the shop owners, we slowly made our way through a long list of items I had to buy within the limited time.

Soon we had enough items to test anyone's strength and stamina and it was time to get help. Enter the Alabaru- the Lagos version of a Dandoko, only this time they were mostly women with baskets which they supported on their heads while meandering with shoppers through dirtier, smellier, busier markets where we were warned at every turn to keep purses close and cautioned to watch our back!

Happy to find relief from balancing several shopping bags, and deciding that there was nothing more we could do with dusk approaching, my party of shoppers made its way out of the belly of Idumota market to an off-side road where we had left the car for safe keeping.

We walked in a file with my aunt who knew the way at the head of the park and me at the back. As I struggled to follow in quick steps, darting  over potholes and trying not to slip in gutter- black mud, I closely followed the person in front of me to ensure I didn't get lost.

"Epele Ma"

I heard a female voice and looked back to see a shop owner step out to greet someone ahead.  Her greeting fell behind as we trudged through the throng of bodies. The woman continued greeting louder than before and I realised it was meant for one of us. I calculated if my pretence not to hear her would look obvious before deciding to yell at my aunt- the object of her greeting, who now stopped and offered an acknowledgement.

Tired, we moved on weaving our way to where we had started our journey several hours ago. As we entered a wider road and I could see ahead of me, I noticed that the Alabaru wasn't in front of the pack, she wasn't in between neither was she behind me.

I had thought the Alabaru was in front and asked the person in front of me where she was. The person also assumed she was in front and asked the person in front of her. This person had also assumed the same so asked my aunt in front of her who had thought the Alabaru was at the back, and had been behind her all along!

Pandemonium ensued.

How could we have not watched her?

When was the last time anyone saw her?

Where were we to begin looking for her?

The memory of how laborious the last few hours had been came rushing through my mind, and I suddenly felt my tiredness at the thought that all that labour could very well be futile!

Calculating the cost of each item bought, my head went into a spin at the realisation that all the money we had spent would go down a bottomless drain!

By this time, we had frantically started retracing our steps through dirt roads with mud that stuck on your shoes, over wooden slabs with gutters bubbling underneath and past hot alleys with the retreating smell of boiling oil that reminded you to do everything not to fall into wide brimmed pots on lit fire wood which you felt before you saw.

As we walked, I observed everyone's frustration- a hand on the head, a repeated stamping of both feet, angry words, worried faces... I retreated within and prayed.

"Lord I know its next to impossible to find this girl, but wherever she is cause our steps to cross" 

Mentally I decided that if we didn't find her, I was going to let go of the thought of the money we would have lost.

On we went, retrieving our steps until I heard the combustion of voices in front of me and raised my head to see. The Alabaru must have spotted my aunt at the same time she recognised her leading to the simultaneous burst of relief!

 As the story tumbled out, the Alabaru narrated that she had gotten lost in the crowd and decided to go back to the shop where we had paused to greet a lady so she could ask for my aunt's number! When she arrived there and couldn't get the number, she decided to leave our things with the shop owner who knew my aunt and return to try to find us! It was in the process of her return journey that we reunited!

As I walked back with her to retrieve the goods, I pondered with gratitude on how that woman who I was tempted to ignore in my haste, turned out to be the player in the story who saved the day. Had we not stopped to answer her greeting, the Alabaru wouldn't have had anyone to return our goods to.

Later, after I had paid the Alabaru enough for her to courtesy with appreciation, I couldn't help but think that God had already made a way out before the situation presented itself. It was in one woman who I wouldn't have given the benefit of the doubt to return what wasn't hers - the Alabaru!

 Read about my past Lagos adventures here and here

September 08, 2014

How to Know It's Real Love

Is it love, or a mutual strangulation society? Martha Beck shows you five ways to get a real grip on the real thing.

By Martha Beck

 In a folktale that has been retold for centuries in many variations (one of which is Shakespeare's King Lear), an elderly king asks his three daughters how much they love him. The two older sisters deliver flowery speeches of filial adoration, but the youngest says only "I love you as meat loves salt." The king, insulted by this homely simile, banishes the youngest daughter and divides his kingdom between the older two, who promptly kick him out on his royal heinie. He seeks refuge in the very house where his third daughter is working as a scullery maid. Recognizing her father, the daughter asks the cook to prepare his meal without salt. The king eats a few tasteless mouthfuls, then bursts into tears. "All along," he cries, "it was my youngest daughter who really loved me!" The daughter reveals herself and all ends happily (except in King Lear, where pretty much everybody dies).

This story survived throughout Europe for a very long time because it is highly instructive: It reminds listeners that in matters of love, choosing style over substance is disastrous. It also helps us know when we're making that mistake. Salt is unique in that its taste doesn't cover up the food it seasons but enhances whatever flavor was there to begin with. Real love, real commitment, does the same thing.

Each of the following five statements is the polar opposite of what most Americans see as loving commitment. But these are "meat loves salt" commitments, as necessary as they are unconventional. Only if you and your beloved can honestly say them to each other is your relationship likely to thrive

1.      I  can live without you, no problem.

"I can't live," wails the singer, "if living is without you." It sounds so tragically deep to say that losing your lover's affections would make life unlivable—but have you ever been in a relationship with someone whose survival truly seemed to depend on your love? Someone who sat around waiting for you to make life bearable, who threatened to commit suicide if you ever broke up? Or have you found yourself on the grasping side of the equation, needing your partner the way you need oxygen? The emotion that fuels this kind of relationship isn't love; it's desperation. It can feel romantic at first, but over time it invariably fails to meet either partner's needs.

The statement "I can't survive without you" reflects not adult attraction but infancy, a phase when we really would have died if our caretakers hadn't stayed close by, continuously anticipating our needs. The hunger for total nurturing usually means we're in the middle of a psychological regression, feeling like abandoned infants who need parenting now, now, now! If this is how you feel, don't start dating. Start therapy. Counseling can teach you how to get your needs met by the only person responsible for them: you. The "I can't live without you" syndrome ends when we learn to care for ourselves as tenderly and attentively as a good mother. At that point, we're ready to form stable, lasting attachments that can last a lifetime. "I can live without you" is an assurance that sets the stage for real love.

2.      My love for you will definitely change.

Most human beings seem innately averse to change. Once we've established some measure of comfort or stability, we want to nail it in place so that there's no possibility of loss. It's understandable, then, that the promise "My love for you will never change" is a hot seller. Unfortunately, this is another promise that is more likely to scuttle a relationship than shore it up.

The reason is that everything—and everyone—is constantly changing. We age, grow, learn, get sick, get well, gain weight, lose weight, find new interests, and drop old ones. And when two individuals are constantly in flux, their relationship must be fluid to survive. Many people fear that if their love is free to change, it will vanish. The opposite is true. A love that is allowed to adapt to new circumstances is virtually indestructible. Infatuation relaxes into calm companionship, then flares again as we see new things to love about each other. In times of trouble and illness, obligation may feel stronger than attraction—until one day we realize that hanging in there through troubled times has bonded us more deeply than ever before. Like running water, changing love finds its way past obstacles. Freezing it in place makes it fragile, rigid, and all too likely to shatter.

3.      You're not everything I need.

I'm a big fan of sexual monogamy, but I'm puzzled by lovers who claim that their romantic partner is the only person they need in their lives or that time together is the only activity necessary for emotional fulfillment. Humans are designed to live in groups, explore ideas, and constantly learn new skills. Trying to get all this input from one person is like trying to get a full range of vitamins by eating only ice cream. When a couple believes "We must fulfill all of each other's needs," each becomes exhausted by the effort to be all things to the other and neither can develop fully as an individual.

It amazes me how often my clients' significant others feel threatened when the clients revive childhood passions or take up new hobbies. I encourage people to bring their spooked spouses to a session so we can discuss their fears. The hurt partners usually come in sounding something like this: "How come you have to spend three hours a week playing tennis (or gardening or painting)? Are you saying I'm not enough to keep you happy?" The healthiest response to such questions is "That's right, our relationship isn't enough to make me completely happy—and if I pretended it were, I'd stunt my soul and poison my love for you. Ever thought about what you'd like to do on your own?" Sacrificing all our individual needs doesn't strengthen a relationship. Mutually supporting each other's personal growth does.

4. I won't always hold you close.
There's a thin line between a romantic statement like "I love you so much, I want to share my life with you until death do us part" and the lunatic-fringe anthem "I love you so much that if you try to leave me, I'll kill you." People who say such things love others the way spiders love flies; they love to capture them, wrap them in immobilizing fetters, and drain nourishment out of them at peckish moments. This is not the kind of love you want.

The way you can tell real love from spider love is simple: Possessiveness and exploitation involve controlling the loved one, whereas true love is based on setting the beloved free to make his or her own choices. How you use the word make is also a tip-off. When you hear yourself saying "He makes me feel X" or "He made me do Y," you're playing the victimized, trussed-up fly. Even more telling are sentences like "I've got to make him see that he's wrong" or "I'll hide what I really think because it would make him angry." You are not the victim but the crafty spider, withholding and using manipulation to control your mate's feelings and actions. Either strategy means that someone is being held too close, wrapped in spider silk.

Getting out of this sticky situation is simple: Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Begin by taking responsibility for your own choices—including the choice to obey the spider man who may have you in his thrall. Then communicate your real feelings, needs, and desires to your partner, without trying to force the reaction you want. If your relationship can't thrive in the clear light of honesty, it is better to get out of it than to sink further into manipulation and control.

5. You and I aren't one.

Perhaps you are neither a spider nor a fly but a chameleon who morphs to match the one
you love. Or you may date chameleons, choosing partners who conform to your personality. Either way, you're not in a healthy relationship. In fact, you're not in a relationship at all.

I used to tune in so acutely to my loved ones' wants and needs that I literally didn't know my own. This denial of self ultimately turned into resentment, poisoning several close relationships. Then—once burned, twice shy—I went briefly to the opposite extreme. I found myself having a lot of lackluster lunches with folks who hung on my every word and agreed with everything I said. Narcissistic I may be, but Narcissus I'm not; hanging out with a human looking-glass, no matter how flattering, left me lonely.

If you're living by the "We are one" ideal, it's high time you found out how terrific love for two can be. Follow your heart in a direction your partner wouldn't go. Dare to explore your differences. Agree to disagree. If you're accustomed to disappearing, this will allow you to see that you can be loved as you really are. If you tend to dominate, you'll find out how interesting it is to love an actual person rather than a human mirror.

Buddha once said that just as we can know the ocean because it always tastes of salt, we can recognize enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom. There's no essential difference between real love and enlightenment. While many people see commitment as a trap, its healthy versions actually free both lovers, bring out the flavor of their true selves, and build a love that is satisfying, lasting, and altogether delicious.

September 03, 2014

How to be happy!

Note: You can win a prize just by leaving your comments on this article, see details at the end!

Part of growing up is taking responsibility for our existence, our well being and the course of our lives. It's also about taking responsibility for our own happiness and learning not to rely on and make demands of other people in order to be happy.

We have needs and place expectations on people to meet them. Sometimes we apportion these expectations based on roles e.g. we expect a parent to meet a financial need, a friend to meet an emotional need or a pastor to meet a spiritual one.

 Or we apportion them based on conditioning e.g. an authority figure in our home is very accepting and patient therefore we are shocked if an authority figure at work is autocratic and firm because we expect him or her to behave like that parent. 

Our expectations may also have been shaped by the experiences of others, books and movies, our own idea of how things should be or how we treat other people leading us to expect others to treat us the same way.

Unhappiness begins when these needs are not met and our expectations are disappointed.

Adjusting Expectations 

I grew up soaking in songs by artistes like Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin and Donnie Maclurkin and quite by accident I found a kindred spirit in a colleague who loves their music too. The minute I would start to hum one of those songs he would take up the tune and we will have a good time singing song after song; pleasantly surprised at how many of the same songs we knew and appreciated with the same level of enjoyment.

On one of the days that this happened, I became saddened at the thought that I couldn't enjoy such moments with *Haruna but quickly realised how much of a blessing he was to me in other areas and how if for any reason I wanted to go back in time, I could call up this friend of mine and reminisce without needing to expect the unreasonable from Haruna who hardly knows those songs.

Women have had to accept that their husbands will not talk as much as their girlfriends would or understand certain sensitivities more attuned to females so rather than badger the men, they have learnt it is wiser to pick up the phone and call a sister, girlfriend or mother who gets it and leave the man be to watch his sport channel or read the paper when he doesn't want to talk.

David realised he didn’t have to lift up his eyes to the hills (one source) when his help came from God (an unlimited source who can use anyone in all of heaven and earth to show us love and meet our needs). We need to begin to see the abundant ways in which God meets our needs and open our eyes to all the ways in which we are loved, admired, respected, attended to, provided for e.t.c

Giving up control

I felt frustrated one day after expecting to have a rosy evening of easy conversation with Haruna and it wasn’t to be no matter how hard we both tried. I was disappointed because he wasn’t acting the way I wanted or saying what I wanted to hear and rightly so because he wasn’t my robot to control. Reflecting on it later I realised I could have gotten entertained elsewhere and I wrote this note to self-

“ I am responsible for my happiness, it is my job to make sure I can watch DSTV if it will entertain me, call a friend if it will cheer me, go out if it will help me, get lost in a book if it will distract me, give myself rest if it will refresh me and pray if it will deliver me”. 

I couldn't control his responses but if I identified what I needed, in this case being company and entertainment it would become quickly obvious what else I could have done about it. The problem is we get angry when people don’t do what we want or when things don’t go our way and then try to change the people or influence the outcome of situations to suit our desires leading to avoidable suffering.

Once we separate our happiness from expecting conditions and people to be perfect, we find that happiness isn't a fleeting feeling dependent on fair weather but an underlying sense of wellbeing free from inflicted suffering on account of imperfect conditions and people. It is in the serenity of accepting our inability to control people and conditions we cannot change, and adjusting ourselves instead, that we find happiness.

Taking responsibility

Taking responsibility demands that we identify what expectations we have placed on people and x-ray it to see if it is reasonable in the first place. It also means identifying what needs we are trying to meet- what underlying motive is behind our expectation and making peace with what we expect versus the reality.

Martha Beck of shows how to identify what we feel the person must change to make us happy by trying the following exercise:

*Think about how your loved one must alter him/herself or his/her behaviour before you can be content. Complete the sentence below by filling in the name of your loved one, the thing(s) you want this person to change, and the way you'd feel if the change occurred:

If _______ would only _______, then I could feel _______.

Now scratch out the first clause of the sentence you just wrote, so all that remains is:

I could feel _______.

That last sentence is the truth. Yes, your loved one's cooperation would be lovely, but you don't absolutely need it to experience any given emotional state. This is incredibly hard to accept!

It is freeing to say out loud, “I am responsible for my happiness”. It is like echoing to yourself that your happiness is not in the control or at the disposal of anybody- that you have the sole responsibility to do what you can to be happy.

Keeping Perspective

Sometimes our needs are legitimate but the person we expect to meet them is unable for whatever reason. In a spousal relationship for instance, we can find the right time to gently tell our partners what we need and how we expect to be loved. Will they change right away or get it right every time? No, but we must be patient.

We must also make room for the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability and dependency that comes with love. It is natural to experience the conflicting feelings of being a perfect pair when things are smooth and then being an individual when our better half isn’t emotionally available. The temptation is to also withdraw. But we can practice unconditional love by loving whether the person does what we want or does not.

We can patiently let them be and put their needs above our own, understanding that they are not disposed at that time to take care of us and need us to hang in there until they are able. They too might be dealing with something or have a need for space which we can meet without making them feel guilty. It's more empowering for us to give them the support they need than to demand, sulk, force or throw tantrums.

Having said all, happiness is in the submissive acceptance of the fact that people and conditions are not always perfect and the determined acceptance that they don't need to be for us to be happy. Accepting these realities puts the responsibility to be happy back in our court where it should be and releases the people around us from our expectations of what they have to do or be in order for us to be happy.

*Haruna- one boy like that!

Read, Comment and Win!
The best comment wins a copy of "Becoming a better you" by Joel Osteen, a really great book(Abuja only), offer valid till 30th of September, 2014! If you don't want to enter for the prize, no problemo, I'll still love to hear your thoughts on how you've taken responsibility for your happiness, Pls share! 



August 26, 2014

Keeping the peace!

The 10 Rules of Peace Keeping! Titus 3:2


1.   Slander no one.

Don’t misrepresent anyone’s words or actions falsely and negatively.

2.   Abuse no one

Don’t speak disrespectfully or insultingly to anyone.

3.   Speak evil of no one.

Don’t speak negatively of anyone.

4.   Avoid being contentious

Avoid arguments and heated conversations going back and forth.

5.   Be forbearing

Be slow to retaliate, slow to express resentment. Delay retorts and reprisals. Delay enforcing rights or claims or privileges. Refrain from acting. Instead show patient and unruffled self-control and restraint under adversity.

6.   Be yielding

Be willing to make compromises move in order to make room for someone for something move in order to make room for someone for something move in order to make room for someone for something. Be willing to give up rights and change position in order to win the person not the argument. Be willing to agree, unwilling to argue.

7.   Be gentle

Don’t be harsh. De-escalate- make the atmosphere less tense and the people less angry.

8.   Be conciliatory

Be willing to reconcile, agree, understand, negotiate and compromise.

9.    Show unqualified courtesy toward everybody.

Give the gift of regard, respect, due consideration, and show good manners to everyone.

10.                     Remind yourself of the rules again.

April 17, 2014

How do you do it?


It is the one question I have asked more times than I can possibly recall and the person who has to find an answer for me is usually a young, successful business owner running a business at a profit and making a self actualizing living off his ambitions.

“How did you raise capital for your business?”  

I asked this young “CEO” ignoring the restraint to bite my tongue. I watched his reaction carefully as he moved in his executive chair wondering if he would balk and I held his gaze with a direct “yep I just asked you that” look on my face.  

“It was my money”, he said.  I listened on for what I was looking for.
“......I have a partner”. I took that in and listened further.
I didn’t need to know the truth, the whole truth or nothing but the truth. I just needed to make sense of the larger question on my mind - “How will I do it”?
The word “partner”and “capital”added up to investment funding and I mulled over the possibilities in my head.

How did you start your business?

I clearly remember asking another “MD” on a Monday morning, recalling how markedly different his prospects appeared to me only two years ago. It was crunch time to get critical work done but he answered my questions- maybe it was the easier option.
"The contract from my first job was the breakthrough". But I not only listened, I saw.

I saw the way he faced and handled the business challenges coming in through the earpiece of his black berry phone with firm instructions and quick decisions.

 It was just as much an answer to the question.

“How did you set up your office space?”

He was dodgy, this young “entrepreneur” fresh out of NYSC complete with a brag to his mates to come and work for him.
“Not everything you see is paid for”. He was dodgy but I understood that he was trading services for services.


It’s like living with a condition, this question I live with. This curious streak in my nature.

And yet I get taken aback when the question is thrown at me.

 How do you manage it?”

How do you do it all?

How did you come about that?”
And although I answer, I am usually caught off guard by the realisation that I am also figuring things out and “doing” it and someone wants to know my “how?”

March 13, 2014

Extinguishing the tantrum cycle

By Seth Gordin.

Tantrums are frightening. Whether it's an employee, a customer or a dog out of control, tantrum behavior is so visceral, self-defeating and unpredictable, rational participants want nothing more than to make it go away.

And so the customer service rep or boss works to placate the tantrum thrower, which does nothing but reinforce the behavior, setting the stage for ever more tantrums.
Consider three ideas:
  • Listen to the person, not the tantrum
  • Tantrums want to deal with tantrums
  • Create systems to avoid it in the first place
When an employee calls you up, furious, in mid-tantrum, it's tempting to placate or to argue back. That's the tantrum pressing your buttons. Instead, ask him to write down every thing that's bothering him, along with what he hopes you'll do, and then call you back. Or even better, meet with you tomorrow.

Email tantrums are similar. If someone sends you an email tantrum, don't respond, point by point, proving that you are correct. Instead, consider ways to de-escalate, not by giving in to the argument, but by refusing to have the argument.

Engaging in the middle of a tantrum does two things: it rewards the tantrum by giving it your attention, and it makes it likely that you'll get caught up, and say or do something that, in the mind of the tantrum-thrower, justifies the tantrum. That's the fuel the tantrum is looking for--we throw tantrums, hoping people will throw them back.

When you have valuable employees or customers (or kids) who throw tantrums, that might be a sign that there's something wrong with your systems. The most basic way to decrease tantrums is to find the trigger moments and catch the tantrum before it starts. By creating a way for people to raise their hand, send a note, light a signal flare or otherwise highlight the problem (internal or external) before it leads to a tantrum, you can shortcircuit the meltdown without rewarding it.

If your dog is going crazy, straining at the leash and barking, it turns out that yelling, "sit," is going to do no good at all, no matter how loudly you yell. No, the secret is to not take your dog to this park, not at this time of day, at least not until you figure out how to create more positive cycles for him. Eliminate the trigger, you start to eliminate the tantrum.

Unfortunately, just about all big customer service organizations do this precisely backward. They don't escalate to a supervisor or roll out the kindness carpet until after someone has gone to Defcon 4. They decide that it's too expensive to be flexible, to listen or to treat people fairly, and they wait until the costs to both sides are really high, and then they give an empowered person a chance to solve the problem. There's huge waste here, as the problem costs more to solve at this point, and the unseen challenge is that they've established a cycle in which umbrage is the rewarded behaviour.

And the last (but essential) thing to keep in mind is this: tantrums are really expensive, and if you can't extinguish the ongoing problem, fire it. Fire the customer, fire the employee. Establish a standard that says that people around here don't act like that. Expose the tantrum for what it is, and if necessary, do it in front of the tantrum-thrower's peers. It will free up your resources for those that are able to earn them.

When the cost of throwing a tantrum is high and when the systems are in place to eliminate the triggers, tantrum behavior goes down.
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