On being ... a positive force

By Ingrid Sapona

I had two e-mail interactions this week that got me thinking. They weren’t related and neither was noteworthy when considered on its own, but the contrast between the way they left me feeling was rather startling.

The first interaction was with someone I work with on a volunteer committee. His e-mail (to everyone on the committee, not just me) was about the wording of some by-laws we had been working on. A few of us had gone back-and-forth about the wording, finalizing it while he was away on vacation. I hadn’t heard anything more about it until his e-mail this week.

He started his e-mail with: “I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on t.v, but….” and he went on to explain that someone had pointed out to him a potential source of confusion in the wording and he suggested alternative language. I realized right away that his opening was a variation on a line from ‘80s t.v. commercial for cough syrup that featured an actor who played a doctor on a soap opera. In the commercial the guy says, “I’m not an actor, but I play one on t.v. …” and he goes on to endorse the product. (I guess the line was meant as a disclaimer in case any viewers thought he was a real doctor.)

I know people jokingly throw that line around, but when I read it in his e-mail it struck a nerve. I couldn’t help think that it was a barb aimed at me since, as far as I know, I’m the only lawyer in the group that had worked on the by-laws. I realize I might have been misinterpreting the comment. He could have just been trying to be funny, or it could even have been a reflection of some insecurity on his part (if he was self-conscious about recommending different wording).

I resisted the urge to ask what he meant by the comment and, after I regained my composure, I considered the issue he raised. There was an ambiguity so I proposed new wording. Those on the committee who bothered to weigh in agreed with the fix I proposed but he wouldn’t let the matter rest until he and I went over the rationale for every single word and he was satisfied. The interchange was par for the course, as most of my dealings with him have left me frustrated and zapped of energy. (The interchange was useful, however, because it reaffirmed my desire to wind-down my involvement on this committee.)

The other e-mail exchange was with my friend Pam. Another friend had asked me if I could recommend a consultant to help her with something. I didn’t know anyone in that field but I thought Pam would know someone. Unfortunately, Pam is away (taking in the Olympics in Beijing), so I explained to my friend that I’d get back to her as soon as I could.

As luck would have it, later that day I was in touch with a colleague of Pam’s and I mentioned I planned on asking Pam for a recommendation for a consultant. Though I didn’t intend for her to, Pam’s colleague e-mailed Pam my question and the next morning I had an e-mail from Pam.

Pam’s response made me smile -- and not just because I thought it was thoughtful of her to take time to respond while on vacation halfway around the world. She gave me two names, adding, for emphasis: “both are very good”. The response was vintage Pam -- she always goes out of her way to describe people in positive terms. (She could just as easily have given me the names and not commented about them -- the fact she was recommending them would have been praise enough because I know she has high standards and is quite discerning -- but it’s not her style to mention someone without singing their praise.) Pam and I ended up exchanging a few brief e-mails about it and though her entire response was only four short sentences, as I passed on her recommendations and comment to my friend, I realized how my interchange with Pam left me feeling really positive.

Immediately after realizing how energized I felt after dealing with Pam, the sharp contrast between that and the previous day’s interchange came to mind and got me thinking. First, I felt gratitude that I have people in my life that exude positive energy, like Pam. Indeed, I thought about how blessed I am because I’ve got more energy-giving people in my life than energy zappers.

Then I wondered why that is -- and more importantly -- how to keep it that way. I think one reason I don’t have many negative people in my life is because I tend to distance myself from them. (My decision to tail off my involvement on the committee is a case in point.) But there has to be more to it than that. So I thought more about Pam and why -- or how -- it seems that everyone she knows is, as she would undoubtedly describe them: talented, outgoing, energetic, and positive.

That’s when I realized it -- it’s the law of attraction. Pam attracts high energy, positive people because she is energetic and positive. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not implying that just because I’m a friend of hers, I’m nearly as positive as Pam is (if I were, I probably wouldn’t have taken that comment about playing a lawyer personally). But I daresay I’m more positive than some (certainly more positive than my fellow committee member) and now that I realize that I’ve witnessed, first-hand, the law of attraction, it sure makes me want to work hard at being a positive force myself, in hopes of surrounding myself with others like Pam.

© 2008 Ingrid Sapona


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