Yesterday’s “Text Lacks Empathy” talk got me thinking about the times when I’ve put others on the spot.
Sometimes empathy is overrated. Sometimes it’s a waste of time, and sometimes it’s wrong. There’s a time and place to pin someone’s ears back against their head and clean their clock. It can be very productive to employ linguistic judo. And sometimes very cathartic.
In 2006, I had a billing problem with Countryside Pet Supply. They weren’t answering my e-mails, so I escalated the issue by sending a message to multiple countrysidepet.com addresses. A company employee did a reply+all to my mail. He asked another employee to deal with this, and referred to me as a “west coast jerk.” He didn’t realize he had done a reply+all. He thought he was communicating only within his company.
But he did a reply+all, and I got his mail. In fact, two mistakes were made: He did a reply+all, he referred to a customer who had done $1,500 worth of business with his company as a jerk…
I didn’t feel very empathetic about this guy. I did a reply+all and let him have it.
Should I have tried to understand that he was having a bad day, and laughed it off, and continued doing business with that firm? No. There are many other pet supply companies on the web, and I didn’t owe it to them to cut them any slack. It didn’t help any that the apology I got back was, um, less than effusive. I loaded my shotgun and blew him away.
Sometimes you need to punch back. You’re under no obligation to always turn the other cheek.