I’ve known this executive for some time. Handsome and wildly successful, he’s well-respected around the office. Leaders enjoy working with him and the assistants blush and giggle like school girls behind his back. As a mutual member of the “under 35” crowd, we often gravitate toward each other during work events and engage in casual conversation. The extent of our interaction is totally surface though – perhaps a passing “hi” and “bye” in the hallway. But little did I know that a routine meeting with him would soon turn into a surprise therapy session.
After outlining the new communications strategy, our meeting wrapped up. I expected him to depart, but instead he lingered in my office for a moment.
“So, how’s everything going with you?” he asked, assuming a more informal tone.
“Oh, fine,” I replied. “It’s been super busy around here with the recent announcements.”
Not seeming to hear me, he appeared distracted and deep in thought.
“Yeah, things have been crazy,” he offered up. “Well, in my personal life that is.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Did he expect me to pry and inquire about his personal issues? Should I just sit there and nod quietly in agreement? Thankfully, he didn’t give me much time to make a decision as he suddenly launched into the tale of his recent break-up with his girlfriend. He spoke about heartbreak, the challenge of coping with loss, and the fear of starting over. I could see the hurt in his eyes and it was apparent that he just needed someone (anyone) to talk to. Fortunately he picked a good candidate because I know, all too well, what he was experiencing.
I’m innately very nurturing so I shared my break-up story with N, and talked about how important it is for a couple to be fundamentally aligned. We also discussed the pros and cons of online dating and I advised him on how to create an optimal profile (seriously, it’s an art). He seemed to relate to my relationship with N, and understand that you must prioritize your needs and find a counterpart who is stable and secure. By the time we finished speaking, it was obvious that he was in better spirits and much more optimistic about dating life post-break-up.
It’s funny; sometimes we don’t recognize the human side of our co-workers. Prior to our conversation, this executive was just that – an executive. An uptight business drone in a perfectly-pressed dress shirt and slacks. But now, I view him as someone with dimension and personality. I doubt that our “therapy sessions” (his words, not mine) will continue, but I’m glad that I was able to reassure him and provide some words of encouragement, if only for a moment. This unexpected encounter also solidified for me the universal nature of human emotion, especially when it comes to relationships. We all experience love and loss. Even the office drones.