It happened again.
Another angry email.
You know, the kind we all get. No matter the field, no matter the role–there is always a heated complaint, the kind that makes you laugh at first (because it seems so ridiculous), and then forces you into an existential crisis.
I know I’m not alone. Even today, a friend of mine is in the same boat.
I read the email to my boss, and before I began I said, “Please don’t tell me ‘I told you so.'” Because this email was in response to a decision that I made that my boss didn’t quite agree on, but trusted me on. And what’s worse than someone upset with you for something you rallied so hard for?
My boss had compassion, and told me this story: her daughter was recently promoted at her company to essentially intervene on every complaint the company had. Someone was mad about the product? Goes to her. Someone thinks an employee was rude? Goes to her. Every single complaint in the company goes to her. Imagine all those angry emails. Yikes.
But what she said to her mother blows me away: “Mom, I love it. I love being able to change somebody’s mind so that when they walk out, they are believers in our product. They end up loving our product.”
What a statement.
And how convicting.
You see, I have noticed that when someone brings up a complaint to me, I get heated. I get defensive. I don’t want to listen. I want it my way and right now. My eyes get crossed and my words get slurred and I want to defend my decisions and prove how wrong everyone else is.
What if, instead of defending how correct I am (even when it’s obvious)…
…I spend that time in such a way that people walk out believing in my product?
…I take the time to value that person so that they value me?
…I assure that they don’t walk out knowing I’m right, but joining me in the truth itself?
And I think that this is true not just in our work, but in every argument that comes our way. I know that for me, I often get defensive because defense is my way of life. When you’ve done it “all on your own” for most of your life, you tend to forget that you don’t have to do it all on your own anymore.
And crap, you don’t outgrow that overnight.
It’s almost ironic that I began my day with this passage in Psalm 40 (which, on a side note, I only read because my sister got it tattooed on herself and I decided she was stupid so I ended up reading it to laugh at her, but instead it set my day in a really holy tone… don’t you wish God would stop meddling sometimes?!):
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
God has done so much for us in our lives–taken us from a place of despair and loneliness and given us a solid foundation. The passage goes on to talk about how this story is not only one that we set on our lips, but one we place center in our hearts.
Sometimes we abandon this truth for a lie; we live our lives as if they are self-made and not God-rescued.
And when we live our lives as if it’s our work and not God’s, we forget to think about others. Because they didn’t help us. We did it on our own.
And what we end up doing is not allowing others to join in on that life, that story. We end up putting up walls and blurting out pieces when it’s convenient for us.
I don’t know how to fix this.
But I can think of something one team in my church says, something I really admire:
Always assume the best in one another.
And I think that’s the best place to start…
…and maybe that’s where it also ends?
Assuming that when someone raises a concern with us, that their concern has value. That this person has value. That their concerns are nothing to laugh about or scoff about, but to consider that a real life human has entered you into a conversation that could end in improvement.
And, even if it’s not improvement in the idea itself…it will at least improve you as a person.
Treating others with the best assumptions always improves you as a person.
Lord, help me learn this. Help me set my story of rescue on my lips and in my heart. And help me invite others into that story, my story, and my thought process in a way that isn’t defensive but restorative.