“It tastes like chicken,” my dad said as I looked down at the cooked frog legs on my plate at a fine dining restaurant in Monterrey, Mexico, when I was 8 years old. I can’t remember if I ate them or not, but I remember that moment. I was thinking: how does someone cook a frog?
There’s an old fable that says in order to cook a frog, you place them in a pot of cool or lukewarm water and ever so slowly turn up the heat until the water is boiling and it’s too late for the frog to jump out. I think of that story a lot when coaching leadership communications with my clients because often, by the time they get to us, they are boiling mad or have almost given up completely.
I believe a lot of us (and maybe all of us at some point) are on a “slow boil” with people in our office, colleagues, friends, and even members of our own families. We tolerate attitudes, remarks, behaviors, missteps, and mistakes that seem small or even insignificant at the moment, but over time put us on a slow boil.
We are either not paying attention to how we feel, or we simply ignore it, often not wanting to make a “big deal out of every little thing.” But little things can add up over time. Before we know it, what seemed like an off-handed remark or two, suddenly shows up as complete disrespect. What once was a small mistake has now turned into a regular, sloppy habit. What appeared to be just one bad day has morphed into a consistently negative attitude. What started out as a seemingly reasonable request to leave early has evolved into an annoying habit. And now, we’re boiling.
It can happen with all kinds of things other than people. I’ve let clutter slow-boil on my desk or snack foods slow-boil into my daily diet. It’s easy if we aren’t paying attention and are not willing to confront the small things before they are deadly.
I like to think about how I would react if I walked in fresh and new and observed someone else tolerating the behavior I’m currently bothered by. What advice would I give them? Why would I not take that same advice myself?
It’s really a matter of personal respect and honor. We’ve bargained with ourselves about how important things really are, what we deserve, and what our goals are worth. Some, if not all, of these things will need us to make the shift first. Anything could be in the mix—our health, our relationships, our work, our finances, or even our spiritual connection. If it’s not based in love, abundance, support, or if it’s not in alignment with our values and goals, then we should make plans and get whatever support we need to take action before we’re boiling and can’t jump out safely.
What are you tolerating that you know you shouldn’t? Where might you be allowing things in your work or life that you know don’t belong there? What are you avoiding because you just don’t know how to handle it well?
Remember, we’re the frog, AND we’ve also got our hand on the knob that is steadily heating up our pot of water. You can dare to desire something new and better for yourself, your team, and your family.
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“Speaking our truth is the most powerful tool we have.”
~ Oprah Winfrey