Title or position: Director of Baby and Me - Tobacco Free; Zumba Fitness Instructor
Business/Agency: Union Hospital; Booker T. Washington Community Center
Describe a time you had to be BRAVE.
I think the situation that stands out to me as necessitating BRAVE communication was a City Council meeting in January 2011. I had been the director of the Vigo County Tobacco Coalition for over 6 years. During that time, I had worked hard on securing a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance that would make smoking inside public places illegal.
After approaching the County Commissioners a with a comprehensive ordinance unsuccessfully, I turned to paving the way for a city-wide ordinance. After working on preparations for 5 years, I found a City Council member who agreed to be the champion for this effort. The meeting in which the councilmen voted was packed full of supporters and opposition alike. It was standing room only. Prior to this meeting I read numerous letters to the editor calling me many names and accusing me of trying to kill the business of bar owners and stripping away freedoms. Worst of all was a comment made in a community forum in which the reader felt I needed to ..."die a painful death."
Yet as the petitioner for the ordinance, it was my duty to stand at a
microphone in the center of this packed room and plead my case. I did so calmly and assertively all while listening to hecklers sitting directly behind me. How was I able to do this? It had very little to do with my own talent or skill. I had an amazing team of people who supported me and trained me well to do what I did. I wrote out my words and practiced them on numerous ears. And most importantly, before I walked through the doors of City Hall, I communicated with my Savior, Jesus from whom all peace comes.
What would your peers/colleagues/employees say is your best quality?
I have been told numerous times that I have a "way with words" in regards to giving advice and comfort.
What qualities do you need to work on?
I am working very hard, both professionally and personally, on not being a reactor. When difficult or frustrating situations arise, I have a HISTORY of reacting. I stress that this is my "history" because it is NOT my future. I am learning to stop before a word comes out. I hear many frustrating things in my work. "No, I won't stop smoking in the house, its my house. She can go outside." "I know so and so who smoked a pack a day and her baby was "perfect". I don't believe my smoking will hurt my baby." "I know smoking during pregnancy is harmful to my baby, but I don't want to quit."
I've heard all of these and more, numerous times. While I may not react inappropriately, I am sure I have had facial expressions that spoke volumes. It's shocking to hear these things! But even my body language and facial expressions can communicate my disdain and shock, and that doesn't help the situation. The same goes for difficult situations at home. I am re-training myself to stop and re-group before responding either verbally or physically.
We all deal with difficult people. How do you deal with difficult people in your life?
In my job, I have to deal with difficult people almost on a daily basis! The people I help are all addicted to nicotine which is second only to heroin in addiction, and a very close second at that. On top of this addiction, these women are dealing with stress and hormones. For me to tell them that its time to give up cigarettes feels incredibly unfair to them. Then we have the added difficulty of convincing their friends and family members to smoke exclusively outdoors, harder than you might think. I am a recovering nicotine addict. I have been smoke free for 8 years, but smoked for 10 years before quitting.
Not only this, but I smoked during my first pregnancy...for months. I did not crave food during pregnancy, I craved cigarettes. Am I proud of this fact? Absolutely not. I am mortified by it. I am reminded everyday when I educate these women on the risks of smoking during pregnancy what I did to my unborn baby. Most painful, I am reminded when she has to use an inhaler (which is happening very rarely these days praise the Lord!). It hurts me to repeat these words, but they are the most crucial thing for me to communicate to these women because it breaks down walls they had built when they walked into my office and saw my "No Smoking" posters. They are used to being judged and ridiculed for smoking while still pregnant. But I immediately go from judge and jury in their eyes to cheerleader and advocate. I have been real and honest and they now know I truly "get" them. Humility, honesty and love are three of the most important virtues when communicating with "difficult" people.
What does success look like to you?
For me, success is when I am walking in sync with the Lord's will for my life. If I do this one thing, everything else will fall into place.
What is your favorite quote?
"A person is a person, no matter how small." - Dr. Seuss
What about Carrie's story spoke to you?
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"ProfilesInBRAVERY" is a segment that highlights everyday people using the communication skills they have to do amazing things. The world may not know their name but their bravery and courage has changed someone's world. If you know someone who should be featured, contact me.