A colleague of mine came back from a business trip filled with tough meetings. He was deflated and discouraged. When I asked why he was feeling so demoralized, he said, “I know that things can’t always be perfect and that there will never be a lack of problems to deal with. It’s part of the game. But, most of the time, when we deal with problems here, we look for solutions, we don’t point fingers, and we certainly don’t scream at people or throw things. So, spending a week with people who are often upset and scream at each other really gets to me.”
This conversation reminded me of advice I received from my Dad when I was 14 years-old. We took a trip to New York City. I was walking with my dad somewhere in the heart of this bustling city. I kept on falling behind him and he continuously had to stop and wait for me. At some point, he looked me in the eyes and instructed me: “Listen, you have to adjust the way you walk here. This is not Montreal. If you always get out of people’s way, if you always slow down to let them pass, if you’re afraid that they’re going to run you over, they will! You have to keep your head up, pick up your pace, and run into them once in a while”. He called it the “New York attitude”.
To this day, when I go for walks in NYC, one of my favourite cities in the world, I walk with my NY attitude. I’m friendly and respectful, but I’m not going to be run off the sidewalk. Once in a while, I’ll bump into people and depending on their reaction I will either say: “Oops, sorry”, or “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”.
I’m a big champion of being yourself and not taking on different personalities based on one’s audience. If you have a “Canadian” personality, you will prefer to get along, be polite, say thank you, and most of the time, that will deliver the best results. But once in a while, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little attitude adjustment and saying: “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”. It all depends what sidewalk you’re walking on.