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"To Obama:" Introducing A New Verb

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Along with millions, I worked hard, very hard, for the candidacy of Barack Obama. I believed in his vision of doing business in a new way; I believed that for our survival we all must see ourselves as in this boat of life and citizenship in the fresh and interactive way that he had promised.

As a clinical social worker, a great deal of my concentration is marital and family therapy; I am also a consultant to some small businesses and professional settings, where my job is to identify problem areas that get in the way of client satisfaction.

I did expect indirect help in my work from Barack, Michelle, and their family, all serving as phenomenal role models. Barack and Michelle Obama are natural, real and fun. They are suburb parents; their daughters are beyond wonderful; and Barack even knows how to get along with his mother-in-law! And she with him!

Not only have Michelle and Barack weathered storms and faced problems together, they are also well mannered and affectionate. The tender way they speak to each other has been moving to witness and helpful to all couples. As exciting as the day had to have been for him personally, Barack actually helped Michelle out of the car, no doubt saying something personal to her in their first post election visit to the White House.

Still, I did not expect direct help in my practice from Barack Obama. But here's how I've gotten it. As the world watched Barack rise above pettiness and put together his "team of rivals" for the good of America, I found myself telling more and more clients that it would serve them well "to Obama:" to rise above one's own personal slights and disagreements and in the best way possible work toward goodwill, safety and endurance in family, friendship, love and work.

Now I use the word daily, and my clients are using it also. Two of many examples:

A professional couple in their mid thirties, Doris and Dan (not their real names, of course) consulted me because after four years of marriage, though they loved each other dearly, the husband's mom was driving them both to distraction and causing horrific friction. This lady just seemed unable to let go of her son and stop being her daughter-in-law's rival.

In a nutshell, the presenting problem was Christmas. Doris, whose parents were both dead, refused to go to dinner on both Christmas eve and Christmas day, a family expectation. A few sessions led to an agreement that Christmas eve would belong to the couple, and the Christmas day visit would not be what it has been in the past, interminable. This left only one problem, Dan's mother's overt hostility to Doris.

In our last session, Doris said that since Dan was offering their marriage a healthy infusion of necessary oxygen, she would "do an Obama." She would not focus on any unkindness if it occurred during their Christmas time together. Instead, whe would enjoy what she knew would be a delicious meal, in this way pitching to the health of her family.

In another area of concentration, I was called into a professional office to study the meeting, greeting and follow through of new clients to try to find out why so many did not return. Seeing what was wrong was the easy part. The front desk ( a client's first point of contact) was in chaos because of poor communication patterns, no follow through of problem solving for clients, and rivalries among staff for attention and recognition, perpetuated unknowingly from the top. Following one interview with the whole staff, I met individually with each staff member. Then, there was personal individual feedback, and three concluding joint meetings. Most staff members agreed: "In our relationship with each other and our clients let's all 'Obama' more."

But, as we have seen from the President elect, "to Obama" does not mean a lack of toughness. It also does not mean allowing old loyalties to get in one's way of accomplishing a goal. This Thanksgiving Dan told his mom what his expectations for Christmas were, and explained that she would have a great deal to loose if his wife were rudely treated.

And in the professional setting described, the head of the company decided it was necessary to let one very long time employee go because, as talented and hard working as he was, he showed no desire to learn how to give up his inflexible and cutting, "my way or the highway" brand of interaction. This employee had forgotten long ago who the boss was. Or perhaps he had never been asked to learn.

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