Gretchen Rubin

A Little Happier: This Mother Knew Exactly What Advice to Give in an Awful Job Situation.

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It can be hard to make big decisions, it can be hard to know what to do. And if someone is asking you for your advice, it can be hard to know what to say.

I’m often caught between the pros and the cons. I see the advantages and disadvantages of both sides, and I can’t figure out which way to go.

I’ve developed a few responses that help me, when I can’t decide. Sometimes, I can remind myself, “There’s no wrong choice here.” Sometimes, both decisions can be right.

Another is to tell myself, “Choose the bigger life.” That often makes a decision far clearer for me, such as when we were trying to decide, as a family, whether to get a dog. (Spoiler alert: we did.)

This kind of problem often comes up for me as a parent. I need to decide how to handle a situation, and I can see pros and cons for multiple courses of action. Do I make my daughter go to this party, or this class, or this event, or do I let her decide to stay home if she really doesn’t want to go? That sort of thing.

Because I often feel tortured by indecision, I love to hear examples when people know exactly what to do in a situation that I’d find difficult. Even if I don’t necessarily know if I agree with their decisions, I get a thrill from their certainty.

I loved this story that I heard on episode 80 of Happier in Hollywood, the podcast that my sister Elizabeth creates with her co-host and writing partner Sarah Fain.

In this episode, Elizabeth and Sarah are discussing a common problem—particularly in Hollywood, but really, everywhere. What do you do when you have a truly awful boss, should you tough it out (learn from the experience, show that you’re not a quitter, find ways to deal with it) or should you leave?

To discuss this issue, Elizabeth and Sarah interview their friend, the now hugely successful TV writer Nichelle Tramble. At the beginning of her career, Nichelle was working as an assistant to a very prominent producer who was a truly dreadful boss.

Nichelle described her first day on the job as bewilderingly terrible.

But she kept on with awful first day of work, the horrible treatment continued, then at lunchtime she went onto the street to call her mother (as one does) to tell her what was going on.

As Nichelle was telling this story, I was on the edge of my seat to hear what her mother would say. What would she say? I could imagine that if I were that mother, I’d be thinking about so many different options, is it this, is it that, what do you do, what’s important…you’re at the beginning of your career, you need to think carefully about how you handle this. What do you do?

But Nichelle’s mother knew. Right away.

I love that Nichelle's mother's one question was, "Do you have your purse?"

Nichelle literally never went back.

I love the clarity of her mother’s response. She knew exactly what to say. You can tell a lot about this mother, and this daughter, and their relationship from this exchange.

If you’d like to hear more about Nichelle’s experience, and what happened after that day, you can listen here.

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