My internship in college was a crash course in social intelligence and emotional management. Looking back at my time spent as an intern, and knowing what I know now I wouldn’t change a single thing. I was working as an Intern for Maui Jim Sunglasses – great company and even better people. You should buy a pair of their sunglasses (shameless plug). Okay, back to my post. I was an event coordinator for the Special Markets and Professional Sports division where I was coordinating events like the Indy 500, The USGA U.S. Open, PGA Championship and other various affluent organizational events.
For an intern I had a lot of responsibility. I was on a plane anywhere between 4-6 times in any given week traveling all over North America – often times from one location right to the other. Aside from juggling flights I had to set up, execute, and tear down our mobile presentation stations all while managing our product inventories that were being shipped independently of my travel itinerary. In short, a lot of pieces had to fall into place perfectly before I could even begin to perform my job which revolved around interacting with my customers to build a very positive first impression of the Maui Jim brand.
Stress was inevitable. From time to time stress and anxiety would creep up on me as I approached a deadline for an event where expectations were high and my product was nowhere to be found. Stress affected all of our staff in varying capacities, luckily for me not so much, but often times it was out of control.
In times of high stress the head of the division, Brett, would preach “RATS! RATS! RATS!” Brett was a man in his late thirties yet looked much younger. He was very personable and outgoing all of the time and RATS was his mantra. He was the perfect guy to lead this division of the company. Okay, by now you’re probably wondering what RATS means? It stands for: Rise Above The Situation.
As simple as RATS sounds it’s actually one of the most socially genius things I’ve ever heard. Let me explain. You see our brains are hardwired to perceive and mirror others people’s emotions. Smile at a stranger and they’ll smile back. Flick off a random passer-bye while scowling and you’ve just ruined their day if you haven’t just provoked them to attack you. Due to the social nature of our brains, our emotions are highly contagious. Knowing the power of our emotions in regards to others and vice versa, you cannot afford to have your relations become strained as a result of a previous unrelated social encounter.
The only thing constant in your daily social interactions is you. To perform at your highest level possible you have to view each of your social interactions as independent from the others. You could be having the worst day of your life. Your dog could have just died, a bird could have just crapped on your shoulder, and you could’ve just gotten mugged. If your job depends on dealing with people you can’t afford to carry those negative emotions with you all day long. Leave the negative emotions at the door, stand up straight, smile and RATS.
Now I admit RATS isn’t easy. In fact sometimes it’s down right difficult. However, I promise you this: it really does work. I know this because just last week I had two really important back-to-back meetings with two different healthcare facilities. The first meeting didn’t go as planned. I found out that I wouldn’t be getting the account and needless to say I wasn’t happy, in fact I was furious at the way the meeting played out. However, my day wasn’t done. I still had one more meeting and as I pulled into the parking lot of the hospital of my next I took some deep breaths, whispered “RATS” to myself, and shook of the negative emotions of my last meeting. Before I knew it I was truly upbeat again, and as the operations director called me into his office I knew this meeting was going to go much better, and it did.
Brett, thanks for teaching me to Rise Above The Situation. So next time things aren’t going your way remember to RATS. It could be the difference as you progress through your day.