Bring Your Brain to the Battle on those Bad Days

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Bad days—we all have them. Over the past several months, many of us have probably had more of them than we would like. Yet “bad days” are a part of life so how can we learn to deal with negative situations so they don’t color the whole day gray, or worse yet, black? From my own experience, I have found that the most important thing I can do when faced with a challenge is to remember to bring my brain into the battle.

What do I mean by this? Let me give you a recent example from my CPA firm.

Over the past year, I have been working with a client on an IRS criminal case. This client came to me after working with another accounting practitioner who, truthfully, did not serve this client well and has put him in a precarious situation from a tax and financial perspective. Throughout the  time I have been working with this client, it has become clear that he has a mental illness or, at best, post-traumatic stress disorder from the business relationship with the other practitioner who didn’t do their job.

Suffice it to say, it’s been very challenging for myself and my staff to work through this situation. Sadly, I had to fire this client last week after we had a tense call and he became aggressive, sending harassing and threatening emails with insults against myself and a staff member.

Facing a tough client or situation? Bring your brain into the battle on your behalf.

This is where remembering to bring my brain into the mental and emotional battle of this situation comes into play. I have to remember to use my thoughts to keep things in perspective and not to let this particular situation obscure my view of all of the things that our firm is doing right. I have to overcome my brain’s built-in negativity bias (The tendency we all have, according to psychological theory, to focus on the negative even if it’s really only a small percentage of the sum total of a day or situation, etc.).

This is the frame of reference that I use to coach the team member involved that everything is going to be okay. We have done our job, we did the right thing. As accounting practitioners, it’s far too easy to take the blame onto ourselves when someone else messes up.  It’s hard to not get yourself wrapped up in the emotion of the moment and the situation at hand. I know for myself, I have to take the time to reflect and ask, “Did I do the right thing? Did I do the job I was hired to do?”

In this case, the answer is, “Yes. 100%.”

With this in my mind,  I consciously bring my brain back to focus on fighting the urge to keep replaying the situation and keeping me in the negative place. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

Don’t let dark clouds obscure a brighter view of your capabilities.

Something else happened on that recent dark day as well. Something pretty amazing which lifted the dark cloud and reminded myself and my team members that the negative situation was not the sum total of our abilities or our practice. In fact, the opposite is true—and this was proven out later that very same day.  

Another client, who runs a lavender silk farm, came into our office to sign a Power of Attorney form. They had other questions and wanted to schedule another appointment with us. They were so polite and thankful for our help.

This client had just lost her parents and now her siblings are fighting over money.  “We need to care about people and not worry about money all of the time,” I told her, as I shared The Designated Motivator (DM) philosophy with her from the book.

This is the type of client who our firm is built to serve. The people who get that we are all humans, doing the best that we can for them and who appreciate what we do. I am sure in your firm you have many of them. I am sure you’ve had a few challenging clients like the one I have been dealing with, too.

Keep those bad days in perspectivethey do not define your professional or personal value

The truth is, in any profession and in life in general,  we are all going to have struggles.  If you are in the accounting profession like me, I know you’re going to have those clients that are a pain and you’re going to have to deal with the IRS that is basically useless right now. When you feel the dark clouds rolling in, try bringing your brain into the battle to remain positive. Use it to remember that most of the people we encounter are more like the lavender silk farm family and that on the whole,  you are doing the right things by people. Use it to make the tough decisions that are ultimately the right thing to do such as ending the relationships with the people who choose not to appreciate what you are doing for them.

When things get tough, I want you to tell your brain to remember this little DM gem for you, too: You are too valuable to let someone else’s negativity obscure all of the good you are doing as a competent professional and caring person.