I ordered some clothing from a website in April and by early June, most of the order was still missing. I was angry with the vendor and had some pretty clear judgments about the obvious problems with his business so I called him today and brother, what a lesson I learned. I told the man in clear terms that there were real problems with his business, and his response was, “Yes, and I am the problem.”
“How is that?” I asked.
This past month, my wife, my dog and one of my best friends all died.” he answered. My whole view of this man and his business shifted in that moment from a place of judgment to a place of compassion and yes, a bit of guilt too. I remembered what Steven Covey said about his first of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and his story of the man on the bus who was ignoring his son while the child managed to act out and get in the face of most of the other riders. Covey speaks to his judgment and frustration about the man until he learned that the man had just buried his wife that morning.
I also flashed on a lesson I have learned from both Brene’ Brown and from my MKP work about the relationship between personal power and vulnerability. Like most American men, I had been raised with the teaching that being vulnerable meant being weak and that if I am open and vulnerable, I will be eaten alive. So the teaching that vulnerability makes one powerful may not be intuitively obvious. But it is true.
When the clothing store owner opened up and told me about his losses, I was captivated. He had my full attention. I missed my scheduled meeting just to listen to him. And I realized once again that my judgments are based on how I see the world which is often akin to a blind man feeling the trunk of an elephant and thinking it is a tree.
The facts are that the man took an order to ship me products and did not deliver for over a month. And today’s lesson for me is that often, the facts simply don’t matter. Instead, what matters is being willing to shift my world view… to make a paradigm shift and to learn from it.