Recently a friend of mine, who is also a member of an active discussion group to which I belong, asked us all for advice. He had a contract for a three-week school program for which he planned to take off time from his regular employment. What he hadn’t known at the time the three-week commitment was made was that he would be receiving a promotion in the company of his regular employ that would not only mean a better income for him and his family, but also many more hours of work and no chance of being able to take off three weeks.
He felt terrible and guilty, but knew that he would have to “face the music” so to speak. He found a fine substitute for his program and then contacted the teacher with whom he had made his initial contract and was dismayed by her reaction to his dilemma. As you might imagine, this well meaning man stirred up a variety of feelings among the discussion group members.
The numerous interchanges made me consider what went wrong and what might have been a more workable solution. But, most of all, it reinforced the importance of realizing that there are three sides to every situation – my side, your side, and the real side, somewhere in the middle. Following are some of my thoughts and opinions on ways to handle sticky situations with clients – and all others, for that matter.
Start by dealing with your emotions. When the teacher was informed of the change, it appears that she overreacted and sent my friend an e-mail accusing him of “non-professional” behavior. This is when he overreacted and told us all the story, including references to “sleepless nights” his “22 days and nights” working away from his family due to the extra work of the new position. Now, I am not passing any judgment because I only heard one side of the story.
Many others in our group, however, reacted – because they respect and know my friend well – with a number of critical remarks about the unreasonable and “hardened” teacher. Then a couple of group members tried to look at the whole situation from the teacher’s point of view, and everyone became even more emotional. It is so natural for us to let feelings – especially if we have a passion for what we do – take over. This whole scenario caused angry words among the members of our usually congenial group. And, it most certainly didn’t solve anyone’s problems.
Many in our group condemned the teacher and suggested that my friend talk to the principal. Personally, I felt that this might worsen what was already a far from perfect solution. I guess that I might have apologized profusely to the teacher in question – even in person – and admitted that I was the one in the wrong.
I realize that we all have our side of the story. Yet, if we take time to put ourselves into the other side, our relationships will grow instead of shattering.