Beware acting while stressed…

Decades ago, Walter Wangerin wrote a brilliant story about the way our approach can make a big difference in the lives of others – it was the main influencer of my credo “Everything you do makes a person’s day better or worse.  What are you going to do with that power?”

It’s called Edification/Demolition, you can read it in 3 minutes, and it’s here.

The format of that story — same setting, two different kinds of experiences — has been replicated in my life.  Almost eerie, but cool.  So – my real-life version follows.

A couple of years ago, I got a car wash in Des Moines at a Soaks location.  The car was fairly new and the paint was intact at that time — no dings or scratches yet.  When I examined it a bit later, though, I found a scratch.  A very small hairline scratch, perhaps 2 inches long, just above the rear driver’s side door.  Barely noticeable, but real, and clearly caused by dirt or sand being in the brushes of the car wash. I required justice.

I was having a busy and stressful day, and this really put me over the edge.  I complained.  I was given a form to fill out to request compensation.  It seemed to not see any action, so I returned, days later, and met with the owner.  The owner and employee were slow to respond, and I got a little passive/aggressive in the interactions, and a couple weeks later, they finally relented to my pressure and complaints, and set up an appointment for me at a body shop for paint retouching for the scratch.  Justice!

I’ll bet I spent 4 hours on the issue, and put an extra 20 or so miles on my car, but I got Justice!  And I felt terrible.  It had taken a long time, I had to be a bit of a jerk, and it really wasn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. My stress (and, frankly, feelings of powerlessness) had gotten the best of me.

Recently, while getting gas at a Kum and Go in Adel, I bought the add-on car wash at the pump.  Just $8.  When I pulled around to the car wash, though, it was being cleaned and was out of operation for the next couple hours.  When I went to the register inside to get my money back, I was told that the car wash was a separate business, and that I’d have to call the owner.  I did, and left a message about the situation.  He didn’t call me back for four days, and apologized for how long it took him to get back to me.  I said this:

“No problem.  Hey, if I was obsessing over this thing, I’d probably have some pretty messed-up priorities.”  He was really thankful for that attitude, and said that he wished everyone were so easy to deal with.  He made the situation right.

Justice!  But this time, I felt better.  Because I had treated the “offenders” better.

I wouldn’t mind bumping into the last guy sometimes.  But the Soaks people?  I’d hide my face and hope they didn’t remember me.

Something we talk about in Group Dynamic workshops is this: 80% of decisions are made based on emotion, not ration. Also, we tend to act less mature when stressed.  The lessons?  There are many.

One is this; when stressed, see if you can delay acting, or speaking, or addressing a situation until the stress passes.  This will increase the likelihood of a better decision, and (more importantly) better interactions and relationships.  Be nice.

4 Responses

  1. Wade
    | Reply

    Both stories hit me at the right time. Thanks for redirecting my path to the high road.

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Thanks for the affirmation, Wade. Glad it was timely. This time of year can be treacherous for a few reasons – weather and post-holiday letdown to name two. Hang in there!

  2. Scott
    | Reply

    Thanks for posting this. I am proud to know you!

    • alanfeirer
      | Reply

      Thank you, Scott. This one seems to have struck a nerve with a few folks. I’m really glad for that!

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