I have often wondered what would happen if we all learned to apply the Habit of the Seven-Second Delay to our relationships.
Most of us can, I think, relate to moments in relationships, be they personal, work related or transaction-based i.e. dealing with a clerk in a store, where our mouths have worked at a pace so furiously fast that our brains have had no chance of catching up.
Who among us has not had the experience of wishing we could take back what has been said or of chastising ourselves for speaking first and thinking later.
If you are male and married this is, of course, an absolutely essential habit to acquire unless you find your couch to be more comfortable than your bed.
A lady named Irene called the other day to tell me how reading the last two blogs in which we had discussed the Habit of the Seven-Second Delay had caused her to pause prior to taking action that would have led to uncomfortable consequences.
A few weeks ago Irene had taken a taxi to the local dealership to pick up her car. She had dropped the car off early that morning and had been assured that it would be ready by the time her workday was over.
To her surprise she discovered that the routine maintenance she had brought her car in for had turned up the need for a $400.00 part.
The service advisor explained to her that it is the policy of the dealership to contact the owner of vehicle before proceeding to order and install parts over $100.00 and somehow the service advisor had forgotten to do so. And as it was now approaching 5 PM it was too late to order the part, meaning that her vehicle would have to stay, disassembled, in the shop for another day.
The service advisor went on to inform that the shuttle service offered by the dealership closed each day at 5 PM and they “would be happy to call her a cab.”
Irene and a
friend had plans scheduled for that evening – expensive tickets to a play – and she was now at great risk of not being able to attend.
She was informed that there would be an approximate 90 minute waits for a taxi. She asked whether anyone in the dealership would be able to drive her home and was told there was no-one available.
A few minutes later the staff working in the shop side of the dealership exited the building leaving her sitting alone in the lounge.
By the time she arrived home, some two hours later, she was “fit to be tied.” Her friend had been dependent on her for a ride and they both, therefore, missed the play.
Irene told me that she could not remember ever having been as angry as she was at that moment. She sat down and wrote a scathing email to the owner of the dealership. She made sure to describe in detail her disgust at the way she’d been treated by the service advisor.
She detailed the lack of apology, the seeming indifference, and the complete absence of remorse and not having phoned her earlier in the day to obtain permission for the needed part to be ordered and installed.
She demanded that this employee be terminated immediately.
Just as she was about to click on the “send” button she remembered the messages she had read in the last two blogs relating to the Habit of the Seven-Second Delay.
She also remembered having heard a long, long time ago that writing an angry letter when you are feeling angry is a healthy and cathartic exercise. And that is all you should do – write it.
Sending it should be left to a time when the anger has disappeared and the letter can be viewed with calm second thought.
Irene poured herself a glass of wine, watched a bit of TV and went to bed.
Around 7:30 the next morning, just as she was about to call me taxi to take her to work, her phone rang.
It was the general manager of the dealership. He was calling to apologize profusely for what had happened the day before and to let her know he was sending over a driver to bring her back to the dealership where she could pick up a loaner vehicle until hers was ready.
He went on to explain that the actions of the service advisor were completely out of character.
He asked if he could explain why this had happened. He was careful to point out that what he was about to say was a reason and not an excuse. He just wanted her to know.
The service advisor has been an employee of the dealership for the past three years. Six months ago her husband had passed away from a rather rare form of cancer and she had been working double shifts to try and make ends meet.
Yesterday, a call from her family oncologist confirmed her worst fears. Her 16-year-old son, who had been undergoing surgery that morning, has the same form of cancer that took the life of her husband.
She had come into his office hysterical and despite his suggestion that she spend the day at the hospital with her son, she had insisted on staying at work because “I can’t see him until after 6 o’clock and I’ll just go crazy sitting in a waiting room.”
Irene told me that by the time she hung up the phone tears were pouring down her cheeks and in her sadness for this woman she hardly knew was a strong feeling of relief that she had not clicked on that “send” button.
On her way to pick up a car later that day she stopped at a florist and bought a bouquet of flowers for this person who she now viewed not as an incompetent service advisor but rather as a mother suffering indescribable pain.
She left a note with the flowers inviting this lady to contact her anytime she needed a shoulder to cry on. And they have since met up for coffee a few times.
Irene taught me a lesson. It is one we can all benefit from.
Let’s all vow to adopt the Habit of the Seven-Second Delay as a filter that will always cause us to take a healthy pause and carefully think through the consequences of what we are about to say whenever you find ourselves about to respond in anger.
Perhaps in doing so, we will, like Irene, create a new friend rather than an angry memory.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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