What the #$%^ Just Happened – it’s the title of a course that I teach on conflict. Specifically, when you are facilitating a session and suddenly the discussion takes a bad turn or there is silence when you would not expect it. It is most likely that there is an unknown conflict lurking in the background.
I had the most bizarre email exchange of my entire career on Friday night. I went surfing and rushed out to get last sunlight, as one does on an island near the equator that has darkness each evening at 6pm. I missed a call at 5:45 from a recruiter that is putting in a contract bid for myself and another consultant as a team. When I returned to the house, I sent an email that contained this message:
The phone number was to contact me Monday. I zipped out for a sunset surf before the sun went away and I know that you are busy this weekend.
The message I got back was from the other consultant (not the recruiter) said:
Telling people in Canada that you disconnected to zip out to surf is not gonna make you any friends here. Just say you had to go to the pharmacy.
He followed up to say that my comments were flippant and that due to the personal circumstances of the recruiter, who has undoubtedly had a rough year, these would not fly.
Here is the thing. There is absolutely no need for me (or anyone) to justify their lifestyle and resulting happiness. When you turn 50, you realize that you have developed a skill to tell people to “f” off without actually saying it, as I did:
I didn’t go to the pharmacy; I went surfing on a Friday night at 5pm. That is my life here and why I have returned to live here. The comment was fact and was not meant to be flippant or disrespectful in any way.
[Recruiter] has a lot going and didn’t read the documents that I sent earlier this week. I feel for [them]. It must continue to be a tough time and will likely be for quite some time.
These are two mutually exclusive conversations.
Then came the “What the #$#% Just Happened” moment. This consultant proceeded to say that he was pulling out of the contract and didn’t want to work with me because of my attitude. I won’t go into the details of the email(s) because I suspect the consultant had been drinking on a Friday night and this will prove to be a very embarrassing moment for him to reflect upon. But the email ended with: BTW, you’ve accomplished shit. Enjoy the surf.
He followed up with a few more disparaging emails before I figured out how to block his account in Outlook.
In the past, I would be very upset about this exchange. I would wonder what I did wrong. This time, I emailed the recruiter directly (who had not jumped into the conversation – it was getting late). I let them know that if my comments in any way diminished what they were going through then I apologize. I echoed the other consultant’s comment that we would not be working together and feel free to work with him directly. I wrote this blog post, let it go, and went to bed.
OK, so it took me a while to fall asleep so maybe I didn’t let it go right away.
Guilt was once explained to me as a warning signal. When you feel guilt, you must ask yourself: Did I do something that is responsible for another’s hurt? If the answer is yes, then an apology is likely required and possibly an action to restore the relationship. But if you take an honest look at the situation and reply no, chances are you are being manipulated to experience guilt.
I don’t feel guilty about anything that I wrote in these exchanges. I feel badly IF I hurt another’s feeling AND my best intentions would not diminish that hurt. I apologized if that was the case. As for the other consultant, who knows what is going on with him!
What the #$@^ Just Happened?! I don’t know but it is not my problem.
It begs the question: Where are we defending ourselves or taking on guilt for problems that are not ours?