Marie Kondo is the woman many people are talking about right now, as she teaches us how to declutter and get rid of our material possessions that aren’t sparking joy.

However before we move on to our cluttered homes, a lot of us need to look at our emotions and the negativity and anger that seems to be simmering on the surface of too many. 

We need to learn to let go.

We need to go with the flow.

We need to stop thinking we can control things out of our personal control – the weather, other people’s thoughts, feelings, actions. There is a long, long list I could write here.

Letting go of anger and negativity is something that is easy to say and very difficult for many people to do.

Yes, I’ve had many times when I’ve been anxious or stressed or downright angry about situations beyond my control, but fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I have learned to *mostly* let go what I can’t control. Go with the flow. Think positively. Remember it could always be worse. It’s not always easy, but it always makes me feel happier. Lighter. More joyful.

Like most of us, there are many people who cross my path every day – family, friends, clients, colleagues, people who serve me, people I serve, people in the street as I go about life. The usual.

Some are awesome – I love these people regardless of how long we spend time together.

Some are vile. They are let in for the bare minimum amount of time, which is always longer than they need to be there.

An experience last week made me realise far too many people don’t let stuff go. And that, sadly, they get really angry with people and situations that they have no control over.

We were visiting Canberra after a fabulously cool few days exploring Thredbo. To digress temporarily, if you’ve not been to Thredbo in summer, GO! It’s ridiculously beautiful and an excellent escape from the revolting humidity of Brisbane in January!

learning to let go

Beautiful Thredbo in summer

Anyway, we had hired a car to get around in. And on Friday it just happened to be in one of the ONLY two suburbs in Canberra where there was a hail storm. I know. What are the odds? Well, actually, that wasn’t my first rodeo with a hail damaged rental car, but that’s another story… Anyway, I was saying hello to a $4,500 bill (I did have the foresight to take out travel insurance and that should cover most of it). So while I was a bit anxious and frustrated, it was an act of God that was completely beyond my control. I’m not saying I wasn’t annoyed, because I was. But not for long. It could have been far worse!

The best part of this experience was still to come. 

I fronted up to the car rental agency on Sunday to return the car. The women there were fabulous. Very apologetic at having to charge me $4,500, but hey, that’s their job.

A few minutes later after starting to charge my credit card, Karen (not her real name, but I can’t keep calling her “one of the women”) went a bit pale, gasped and looked that combination of horrified and mortified as she covered her mouth with both hands.

She said “oh no, oh no, oh no”.

I said “what’s wrong?”.

She said “I can’t tell you, I’ve made a massive mistake”.   

I said “have you charged me $45,000 by mistake?”.

She went a bit whiter and shook her head, mumbling “no, no, no, much worse”.

By this time I was giggling.

It turns out she accidentally charged my credit card $450,000. I couldn’t stop giggling, and my husband was almost rolling on the floor with laughter. 

This was clearly NOT the reaction she expected, as she kept repeating “why aren’t you angry?”.

I told her it was already done and could easily be fixed by contacting the bank, and that getting angry wasn’t going to help anyone. Plus, it was funny!! And I’m still giggling about it.

The worst part of this whole experience is that she expected me to be angry, her supervisor expected me to be angry and her colleague expected me to be angry. Over what was a simple mistake that could have happened to any one of us with fat fingers.

I walked away feeling horribly sad that she expected me to have such a negative and aggressive reaction that would threaten her and make her feel even worse than she so obviously already did. To me, this spoke volumes about the type of customers she has to deal with. And it reminded me that when it comes to situations out of our control, we usually just need to just Let. It. Go. and relax. Sometimes after taking a very deep breath!

This situation reminded me of the last time, three years earlier, when another car I had rented was also somewhat battered by hail. I had a similar experience then too – different agency, different city, thankfully no $450k charge! The man who served me then thanked me for telling him about the damage when I returned the car (something most people apparently don’t do, and then they get abusive when their credit cards are charged with a few thousand dollars to pay the excess… what did they expect?? Hail damage is hard to hide people!). He kept thanking me for being so polite and kind when he charged my card for some ridiculous amount. I said the same then – what would getting angry do? Nothing. He also couldn’t believe my calm and fairly relaxed attitude.

How do you respond to situations like this? I’m not saying I wasn’t annoyed and shitty about it all because I was, but this wasn’t the fault of any of the people who were just doing their jobs. And so why take it out on them?

So the next time you have an experience out of your control that mucks you around, try and focus on the parts you personally have control over. YOUR reaction. YOUR feelings and emotions. YOUR body language. YOUR response. YOUR language and tone.

Don’t take it out on the people who are doing their jobs. Who are trying to help you deal with it so you can all get on with your day.

Learn to let stuff go. Like Marie Kondo for your emotions. Just KonMari the shit out of your negativity, hostility and anger. Then you’ll spark more joy. In yourself and others.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, OF COURSE, the bank didn’t let a $450,000 charge go through on a card with only a $10k limit. Sheesh!

Mel Kettle works with CEOs, Boards, leaders and organisations to help them communicate and engage using digital and social media. Download her latest whitepaper, The Social CEO – from invisible to influencer.

To inquire about working with Mel, and to find out about her Social CEO program, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889. Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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