Early in court reporting education we learn that this can be a rewarding and wonderful field for a variety of reasons. There is money to be made. There are lawyers and litigants to be served. There are a thousands of people that need the accurate voice-to-text service that the best of the best of us provide.
So many also learn this career can be a lot of rejection. Because court reporting (steno) is a skill as opposed to a science, it is literally something we will fail by design. We must try, try, and try again before we do well. We can’t study it and know all there is to know before we walk in and take the test. If we’re average or above average, there’s a good chance we will fail a court reporting test. Who can blame us? The passing score is 95 percent. The words are coming at a hundred or so words every minute. There is no end to the obstacles we face in a testing scenario, let alone the real world. There’s rejection in the real world too. There are hundreds of lawyers that love what we do and the records we make, but it is rarely those lawyers we remember. To be honest, the ones that stand out in my mind to this day are the ones that seemed needlessly cruel or insulting. To keep it short, many of us are just predisposed to remembering the people that suggest we aren’t doing our job right because we can’t take down a five-person crosstalk with the Eye of the Tiger booming over a loudspeaker in the middle of the protest chant three stories below.
What can we do to handle our feelings of rejection on a day-to-day basis? Let these tips, tricks, and solutions guide us a little bit in seeking serenity in a fast-paced world
1. Remember we are not alone. This comes first. It is the first thing we can do in a moment of rejection or a stressful situation. Have we just failed? We are not the first or last to do so. We are among many. We can also be among the many that picked themselves up from failure and did great things with their lives and careers.
2. Analyze the situation. In a moment of rejection, fear, or distress, it is easy to focus in on our feelings and become consumed by them. We must press ourselves not to do that. Look at what’s happening outside of our feelings. If we failed a test, is there something we can do better next time? If a client is complaining, is there something we can do in the moment, within our professional scope of responsibilities, that’ll ease the tension in the room? If we step outside our skin and look at the situation for what it is, we can come up with innumerable ways to solve whatever is wrong.
3. Take a break from the situation. We’ve reminded ourselves that we are not alone and analyzed the situation. At this point, if we are still feeling an impact on our performance from the rejection or stress, then it is best to request a break. Dependent upon the situation, we can request five minutes to compose ourselves, a bathroom break, or if all else fails, claim an emergency situation. The break, when exercised, should be as a polite and professional as possible whether in a school or work setting, but we also must be assertive. A word of caution: Analyze the situation and decide if taking the break will cause more rejection in the future. For example, if we are in the middle of a heated closing argument by a renowned defense attorney in a televised murder trial, we should probably avoid taking a break from the situation.
4. Hang in there. If we cannot break it is often advisable to “just do the best job possible.” Most work we do does not require perfection. We want to be perfect, but we don’t need to be perfect, and no one expects us to be perfect all the time. If our current best is good enough, keep going, and don’t regret it.
5. Call for backup. What of when our current best is not good enough? What do we do when we’ve followed all the other steps and still can’t handle what’s been thrown our way? Call on somebody. For students, this might be a friend or confidant. For working reporters backup might be the agency, a close friend, or a supervisor. Calling for backup might also entail letting the powers that be know we cannot continue. This is a rare and perhaps controversial topic, but the bottom line is we are all humans with complex emotions and obligations. If something has been thrown onto us that is so heavy we cannot continue a job, it is much better to admit it. Some of the best jobs are those we refuse to take.
6. Prioritize your health. As stated, we are humans with complex feelings. If feelings of rejection are defeating us constantly or affecting performance, we may want to consult doctors, therapists, social workers, or other professionals. There are hundreds of us with all sorts of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, aches, pains, and worries. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our profession to get ourselves to a healthy place so that we’re good and our work is good. Don’t let the stigma of mental health treatment, disability, or a medical condition prevent us from being all we can be. Sometimes prioritizing health doesn’t even require seeing a professional. Sometimes all it takes to handle rejection or stress is a vacation, a good book, a blog, a hobby, or a group setting/meeting.
7. Become an agent of change. Once we have learned to handle rejection, stress, or pain, it is time to take our healing to the next level. Chances are high that if we had a problem, someone out there has the same problem, or will someday have the same problem. We must take responsibility for our communities, workplaces, and the field at large if they are to improve. Helping others cope with the hurdles of reporting or life comes with its own sense of rejection and additional challenges, but it is the ultimate triumph to be a mentor, introduce court reporting at high schools, or even present courses to bar associations regarding who we are and what we do. Bravery is not about being unafraid, but being willing to act despite fear. Handling rejection is not about being the paragon of perfection, but about taking all our challenges and making something of ourselves regardless.
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