“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” – William Arthur Ward
A client calls you with an emergency. You drop everything even though you have many other project waiting in cue. He calls and says: “I’m in a tight spot, I need to have a feature added to my web site before I have a client meeting tomorrow. I’ve emailed you the specifics and the data you needed. Can you do this for me?” You think for a moment. You’ve worked with him before, normally reasonable. There was some previous difficulty but it got smoothed over. You say, “Yes.”
Working like a dog over night, you get the job done. He calls you back very early the next morning leaving a message. “What you’ve sent is a mess. You’ve got to do this over. The data isn’t labelled and the chart is clearly off. I need this redone by 10. Give me a call as soon as you get in.” Well, you can imagine how that message felt. You pick up the phone and start to call but then you reconsider trying to pull yourself out of the emotional hole that you have just fallen into.
Remember: The topic here is judgement clarification. Your conscience is working overtime trying to assess “where-you-are” with all of this. You are trying to remember, reciprocity, social veracity, safety, diversity, and empathy. Your initial thinking goes something like this:
“What an jerk! Doesn’t he realize how much effort went into this. OK. I’m not sensing any reciprocity here. He left me high and dry around my needs. But I don’t want to shame and blame just yet. Let’s think about this some more.
Social veracity. I cannot know the truth here. The presentation and the data, well that’s what he wants to make of it. However, I have to manage my time and wind up feeling that my effort’s has been worthwhile. What he is missing is the understanding that I did this as a favor to him and there is sufficiency with the imperfect. Favors do not always wind up being perfect solutions. And whatever is wrong with this for him is on his side of the fence – not mine.
Safety. I was looking for assurance that he would recognize good work when he saw it. That clearly did not happen, but what safety was he looking for? Client safety. He wants to know that his presentation will work for his client and he’s scared that it won’t. No presentation I make for him will take away that burden. He’s looking for a guarantee and is ignoring my needs in the process.
Diversity. Not everyone is going to respond the way I think they should. That’s just a given. I’m really mad here but making that the centerpiece isn’t going to fly. So how can I respect the diversity of his needs and the diversity of my needs? I could try and tell him what my needs are. Can I get comfortable with that idea? It might take some work but … yah, I could.
Empathy. I’m never going to feel safe enough to really tell him my needs if I cannot offer him some empathy. I may feel that he is an asshole but that doesn’t mean he’s worthless. He’s trying the best he can and I can respect that.”
Now you pick up the phone and make the call that will move this “drama” to the next stage. And this time you may actually have enough space to be curious. It’s not that the situation has changed but your mental approach to it has. By working through and thinking about reciprocity, social veracity, safety, diversity, and empathy – you have arrived at a place where you can be genuinely curious about what happens next.
Thanks for listening!