Suck it up

“Did you really tell my daughter to ‘Suck it up’?”

A sharp intake of breath swept through my teeth. This was one of those moments I knew I had coming.

Yes, I had told this woman’s (adult) daughter to “Suck it up”. Yes, I could have chosen better words. Yes, I knew it would come back to bite me as soon as the words left my lips.

To add context, over the course of one morning I’d had four separate conversations about one property (at my real estate business). One tenant called, the other called, a parent of one tenant called, the second tenant called again.

In each and every phone call I’d delivered the same message. Despite the fact that the tenants (two young girls sharing) weren’t getting along and decided they couldn’t live together, they only had a few limited options: break their lease and both leave the property; have one stay in the property and find a suitable replacement tenant or; have one stay in the property and sort out amongst themselves how they were to split the rental payments going forward.

Certainly my patience wasn’t at 10/10 that day. After already explaining the situation calmly and extensively three times, when it came time to explain it for the second time to one of the tenants what came out was a phrase similar to “I’ve been through all your options and I’m sorry, there are no others, you’re just going to have to suck it up and everyone is going to behave like an adult and get together, preferably in the same room and come up with a solution”.

Was it my finest communication moment? Probably not. Did it adequately express the situation? You betcha.

We’ve all done this though, haven’t we. Said something in a moment of impatience, anger and frustration in a work situation and wished we could turn back the clock 15 seconds and replace the words with the tact and diplomacy we knew were warranted.

What did I learn from the situation?

  • I was reminded that people remember sound bites. The girl I’d told to “Suck it up” was very unlikely to convey the entire sentence in which I’d said it to her mother – merely the part that resonated. When she remembers the conversation, perhaps that’s all she’ll remember.
  • I was reminded about the power of taking breaths while explaining things when frustrated. If I breathe, I speak slower, more clearly and usually more appropriately.
  • I was reminded that there are people in our office who I know could have handled the situation much better than I (my word, we have some amazingly zen people) – a good reminder to have perhaps delegated this after the second or third call.
  • And, ultimately, I was reminded that after 20-odd years of working with customers I can still keep learning.

Kirsty Dunphey is the youngest ever Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year, author of two books (her latest release is Retired at 27: If I Can do it Anyone Can) and a passionate entrepreneur who started her first business at age 15 and opened her own real estate agency at 21.

Now Kirsty does lots of fun things which you can read about here. Her favourite current projects are Elephant Property, a boutique property management agency, Baby Teresa, a baby clothing line that donates an outfit to a baby in need for each one they sell and ReallySold, which helps real estate agents stop writing boring, uninteresting ads.

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