There are two types of people: those who scream when they see blood and those who do not.
My 5-year-old was reading his new pirate book in his bed pre-naptime this weekend when I heard him say, “Dad! There is a just a little bit of blood on my hand.” I was doing some household chore a few rooms away and hearing very little concern in his voice, took my time heading his direction. We met outside his doorway and I looked down to see both of his hands bright with blood. His pirate book, a few feet away, had red smeared down about half of the pages. (Side note: If you are going to bloody a book, a book about pirates is about the coolest one you could choose.) But he didn’t think there was much of a problem – until he saw my face.
Let me fast-forward to the resolution and assure you there is no need to worry. In 90-seconds of pure sitcom-like circumstance a few minutes before this scene, a picture frame had fallen off the wall amid a fluttering of activities and he had brought me the pieces, apparently nicking a finger on the unbroken glass. The tiny slice was in just the right place to produce a decent amount of blood, but zero pain, so the little guy had no idea what was happening.
After I assured him that my look of horror was just surprise and everything was going to be ok, we wiped and bandaged and chose another book to read and the afternoon proceeded without any further problems. But I was left thinking about how this situation would have played out with my other child.
If my 5-year-old boy is the type that does not scream at blood, my 9-year-old girl is the opposite. When she just heard me from across the house say her brother had blood on his hands, she started to tear up. When she gets rug burn, she considers Band-Aids. Three days ago, I had to walk her through the concept of scabbing and why it is good and healthy for her knee. It’s not that she is dramatic as much as she has a constant concern for everyone to be ok. It comes from a good place.
In dealing with and managing people, I typically hope to have folks in my sphere and on my teams who can deal with the sight of a little blood. It is much easier to handle problems when everyone involved can remain clearheaded and help look for the solution.
But this preference undermines the need for an alarmist. Sometimes the person upset at the color red is overreacting to a papercut. But there are oftentimes that cut could be deeper than it looks and someone needs to call the doctor before the patient bleeds out.
I learned the value of the alarmist early in my career with an accountant in my organization named Matt. I could take any big idea I was pondering to Matt and he could tell me everything that might go wrong with it. Prone to positivity myself, it wasn’t my favorite exercise, but it kept me from making a few big mistakes. And it only takes one big save for the value of such a mindset to become clear.
But just like we can’t all shrug off the blood, we can’t all freak out either. While it serves to responsibly temper whichever reaction one is prone to, any group needs both kinds.
Just like with my kids.
Their differing approaches to the appearance of adversity make them near perfect playmates. He pushes her to keep going while she reels him back in and ideally this leaves them somewhere closer to “skinned knee, lesson learned” than “the shed is on fire and I can’t feel my eyebrows.”