Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Friday, May 4, 2012

Checking the Ego at the Door

     OK, this was a hard one.  Today, I wrote a very kind e-mail to someone who, quite honestly, didn't deserve it.  It really tested my ability to "check my ego at the door" and to focus on the positive.  Let me try to explain:
     Two years ago, my son Ben was in a small fender-bender in Cherry Hill.  A school bus bumped into the back of a car, which bumped another car, which bumped still another car, which bumped Ben who was stopped for traffic.  It was no big deal, the bus driver claimed responsibility, and their insurance company promptly took care of the minor damages.  Recently though, we received notice that the second person in line is suing everyone else, including Ben, and including me!
     Our insurance company has assigned an attorney to handle our defense and she has been incredibly frustrating to deal with.  Despite having told her on multiple occasions that Ben is out of the country until June, she keeps calling for him to set an appointment for depositions.  Her work is sloppy and I can never leave her a message because her voicemail box is always full.  
     In the conversation I had with her today, I let my frustration show too much. I was short and less than pleasant with her.  I really don't like working with her and I don't like her tone.  Having said all that, I did not handle the call in the most effective way.
     After thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write this woman an e-mail apologizing for the way I handled the call and pledging my cooperation on what needs to get done.  As I agonized over the best wording for the e-mail, I found myself stuck on the feeling that this woman was obnoxious, patronizing, and annoying.  She was clearly "at fault" and I had every right to feel angry with her. I felt like I needed to be honest and "set her straight."  And yet, what purpose would this serve?  Would it be more likely to help or hurt?  Would it make her more or less likely to work hard on my behalf?  Perhaps most importantly, would it be kind?
     I'm reminded of something I once read in a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  He was commenting on our obsession with being "right" and he posed the question, "Is it more important to be right or to be kind?"  The more convinced we are that we're right, and the more justifiable our complaint, the more we want to voice it or act upon it.  I know I'm that way.  It takes an incredible submerging of our ego to let go of having to be right.  What difference does it really make that I was "right" and this woman was "wrong?"  I still need her assistance, and I'm clearly more likely to get her best work if I focus on being kind.
     It seems to me that when deciding upon a course of action, I can be a slave to my need to be right, or I can release myself from this slavery and focus on what will spread the most kindness.  I'll be honest . . . it's much harder than it sounds.  But I'm committed to the path of kindness.

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