Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Voice of Reason.

I was recently listening to a lady named Leddy Hammock telling a story about a difficult time that she had with a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper was in a foul mood, the customer quickly got into a foul mood and they had a blowout. The customer stomped out, and long story short, after determining that this store was the only store that had what she wanted, she had to return to the store and apologize. The shopkeeper apologized, and everybody lived happily ever after.

I learned this lesson a long time ago from an unlikely source.
Now to make a short story long again.

I was working at a small company of about 35 employees. There were two owners (the grownups), a large group of 18 to 25 year olds (the kids), and then four of us that played the role of day to day management (the teenagers).
We were inexperienced but we were constantly trying to improve ourselves.

There was something that Paul was doing on a regular basis that concerned me.
No big deal, just using his signature to give his favorite kids more leeway than the others.
Paul and I were having a discussion when I happened to voice my opinion that I felt that he shouldn't be doing what he was doing. We delved into it further.
I explained to him why what he was doing was inherently wrong. He surprised me by explaining that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing, it was MY problem.
The discussion continued for a very long time. I was up in my office and he was standing in my doorway. While our discussion was happening everybody else in the company had gone home and we were the only two left. He usually opened the place up and I usually closed it, so he was losing his steam. He had to go.
We ended our “dialog” with both us stating our beliefs on the subject. He holding firmly to his knuckle headed concept that it was no big deal, and me stating from my all-knowing pedestal that what he was doing was no less than stealing. And I meant it too.

I didn't sleep well that night.
I didn't want to go to work the next morning.
Paul and I worked very closely every day. We disagreed on a lot of little things and we had no problem telling each other. We would adjust our thinking to the side of whomever presented the best logic. Paul was big on logic, the big knuckle head was just on the wrong side of ethics with this issue. I was on the correct side, and he was wrong. I couldn't apologize because when you are arguing about ethics and you are on the right side, to apologize would step over to the wrong side. This sucked. I saw no way out. It's tough being right.

The next morning I was out in the shop fixing a problem on a Mazak. My stomach was churning, I was cranky, I didn't want to be there. Paul was late.
The control panel on this Mazak hung from a high swinging arm so to program this particular machine, you had to perch yourself up on a very tall stool that was on top of the operator's platform. You looked like a British schoolmaster looking down at the kids when you were working up there poking at the keyboard. Or a dunce sitting on a stool.

Paul eventually came in. I kept typing.
I was cringing as Paul Reason came up to me that morning. Paul is a big guy, six and half feet or so and twice as wide as me. He marched right up to me on my little wobbly stool, looked up and said “Hi Warren, It's a new day!”
I shook his hand and said “Yes it is, isn't it.”
The anxiety was gone, I felt better. We never mentioned that subject again.
Time to get a snack.

I still remember that experience. The feeling of relief, the feeling of forgiveness, the reminder that differences of opinion are just a puff of smoke from a skidding tire. It should be forgotten by the next lap. If you keep creating puffs at the same spot on every lap, then it is up to you to tweak your approach, or speed, or do whatever you have to to avoid repeating the same mistake the next time around.
I have used Paul Reason's technique MANY times. It has made my life easier to forgive and TRULY forget, and to do it as quickly as possible.
It has certainly made life a little bit more pleasant for some of those that I have exchanged “viewpoints” with in the past.
I hear that Paul lives in Brattleboro Vermont now. He still is having a good time working at the same place with most of the same “kids” who have grown up now.
I ran into Paul a couple of years ago and we snapped right back into the same warped sense of humor that allowed us to connect when we worked together.

Now when I have a conversation that ends in a way that should be “corrected”, I always try to listen to “The Voice of Reason”, and clear the air as soon as I can.
Forget the ego, do what's right, none of it is important, it really isn't.

Mr. Reason, if someone tells you about this article, I would like to say “Thank You.”
Be sure to say hi to the gang of misfits for me.


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