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The Walking in the Door Problem
Guest articles > The Walking in the Door Problem
by: Lisa Earle McLeod
What happens when you walk in the door at night?
Do you dread coming home, or are you excited?
A friend of mine has a long commute. It takes him an hour and a half to get home. When he walks in the door he’s exhausted. He just wants some peace.
The challenge is that he has two young kids who leap on him the minute he sets foot in the house. He needs time to recharge. But the kids are so excited to see Daddy, they’re all over him.
What could be a charming family moment often winds up stressful for both parties. The poor guy feels bombarded by his family. Meanwhile, his kids are likely feeling put off by Daddy. People can tell when you're not excited to see them, even kids. Especially kids.
People take their cues from your body language and facial expressions. You’ve likely heard that most job interviews are decided within the first thirty seconds. People make conscious and unconscious assessments about you. Then spend the rest of the interaction validating what their gut already told them.
Your family and coworkers are no different. They read you from the minute you walk in the door. They respond to your mood before you say a word.
Here’s where it gets tricky. In many cases you’ve already started responding to them before you’ve entered the room.
My friend with the long commute spends the last part of his drive envisioning his kids jumping all over him. He loves his kids, but when he’s exhausted, they’re overwhelming.
He pulls into the driveway bracing himself for the onslaught. Do you see what’s happening here? He’s responding to something that hasn’t even happened yet.
How many of us do the same thing? Do you ever find yourself dreading a meeting with someone because you know they’ll be negative? You react to their negativity before you’ve even experienced it.
Do you ever dread walking into your office because you know you’ll encounter a wall of resistance?
Do you ever find yourself angry at your spouse because you know in advance how they’ll react?
Another friend of mine who was going through a challenging time in his marriage, said, “I knew that when I came home my wife wouldn't be happy to see me. I was angry from the minute I pulled into the driveway.”
Can you imagine the vibe he gives his wife when he comes in?
He has no idea what her mood is. Yet he’s already reacting as if she’s unhappy. In doing so he’s creates a catch 22. His wife may have been eagerly anticipating his arrival, but if he walks in the door scowling and angry, it’s unlikely that he will get a happy response.
There’s a simple solution. Show up in a good mood.
The moment you walk in the door, whether it’s to your house or office, sets the tone for everything. If you want your interactions to be positive, be proactive about bringing that energy into the room.
For my friend with the long commute I recommended that he park his car down the street for 10 minutes. He can listen to music, collect himself or walk around the block. Whatever it takes to get himself ready to be thrilled when his kids jump all over him.
For my friend who assumes that his wife is unhappy the solution is even easier. Stop assuming.
People respond to your mood. When you show up thrilled to see them, they become thrilled to see you.
Lisa Earle McLeod helps organizations win the hearts and minds of customers and employees. She is the author of three books included the best-seller, The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small, A Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.
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