CAN YOU WORK WITH A SHIT HEAD AND STILL BE HAPPY?

I often hear my creative professional peers question the decision-making of our business-minded counterparts. Sometimes its people from client service or the client directly. The designer can not fathom why they make the decisions they do. My creative peers call them all sorts of names, none of which are complimentary. Their examination of the perceived wrongdoing often stops there — right after the creative shrugs their shoulders, and chalks it up to the opposition being a shit head.

There is a major problem with this reaction: by giving up on the person, you’ve also given up on understanding the environment that you claim abuses you. Even worse, you’ve thoughtlessly given up the right to be upset when circumstances do not fall in your favor. You were most likely made to do work that you don’t agree with because it goes against your design principles. Sounding familiar yet?

Conflict resolution is not a strong suit for many creatives I know. They shy away from it, and would rather go back to their desk angry than pursue an argument that will display their perspective fairly. Here’s another sweeping generalization that still has merit: it is not uncommon to encounter a pushy or aggressive businessperson. These pushy-types shove reluctant creatives even further into a defict, from which many will never recover. These are the exact reasons why it is so important to develop this conflict resolution skillset. You can actually CHOOSE to be happy while working with these people WITHOUT being delusional.

Your ability to navigate conflict can be the single reason you are happy or unhappy in your career, regardless of how good you are at your job.

It is impossible to say either side is always right, and I’m not advocating that one should side with either creatives or business-people. Right and wrong don’t play a big part in these discussions because our business is not a perfect science. This is more about, “Can two parties with vastly different backgrounds come to an understanding?”

Here’s the most important question, and be honest when you answer this: Have you done everything you can to understand the opposite side? Worse yet, have you added to the confusion because you got angry? If you stop trying to connect, you are just as much at fault as the shit head. You cannot be angry with your business counterpart if you don’t attempt to understand why they’re making the decisions they are.

Its not fair, but you have to be a bigger person.

Sometimes, even shit heads are right. Its hard to admit a shit head is right because they are a shit head, and you don’t WANT them to be right. To get to the true understanding, you have to push past your emotions and solve the problem at hand. This is a VERY difficult thing to do, especially in the heat of the moment. If you feel yourself getting worked up, find a way to excuse yourself from the situation until you can calm down. Write down what you’re thinking and it will help you gain perspective.

PRO TIP: If you choose to write an email DO NOT put the recipient’s name in the To: field. Put your personal email address there until you decide wether or not you are actually going to send it. This prevents you from accidentally sending something you will regret.

Once you conclude your position on the matter, pursue the correct course of action. If your beliefs have changed and you were wrong, ADMIT IT to the other party. This will help you gain a little bit of wiggle room in the future. Admitting that you were wrong is valuable, and will let the other party know you’re fighting for the isssue and it isn’t personal. They will have more respect for you in the future… or not if they’re a really big shit head — in which case you will never come to an understanding but you can feel good that you committed to your best effort.

If you still believe you are right, make sure you explain it in a new way. Repeating your old argument will get you NO WHERE. If you have to, come back with research that backs your argument. Be exhaustingly thourough. Do so much work that they can not ignore you. Do more than you previously thought you could do. Collect examples of what is wrong and display ones that are right.

Through this process, make sure you never stop being a good listener. Maybe you misheard something. Maybe their definition of a paticular word differs from yours. Maybe they are not doing a particulary good job at explaining themselves. Ask questions, make them verify what you believe to be their stance.

If you’ve done all of this and you’re still getting nowhere, there is one fact that can give you solace. Its an idea that can let you sleep at night, or even walk out of the door today with a smile on your face.

NONE OF THIS MATTERS.

We’re just specs of nothing sitting on a rock that floats through space at ridiculous speeds. In one year, five years, a hundred years or a million years, no one will know or care about the struggle you’re having. The advertising or promotion that you’ve been arguing about for the last few hours will get lost in the crazy flow of information your consumer sees, and they probably won’t even notice it. You’re doing your job to the best of your abilities, and people appreciate you, even if sometimes they don’t show it. Develop your skills for you, and your own personal gratification. Don’t cling on to the problems of others and make them your own. Life is hard enough without adding on other people’s baggage.

JUST DO WHAT YOU CAN DO, AND YOU’LL BE FINE.

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