Owning Your Own Crap

Whether it is at home or at work, there are times when we just plain blow it! This may not be intentional or malicious, but it happens just the same. So how do we react to these stressful times of being human? We all have our own way of dealing with things, but there is a right way to deal with our crap. Ideally, the correct approach will help us to save face with our coworkers and loved ones. An even better outcome is to find that we have gained admiration and respect because of the way we have handled our crap. And that can happen!

So what are some typical reactions people have when they commit a major blunder? Some may ignore it and hope nobody notices. Perhaps nobody will know who is responsible for the mistake and it will just remain an unsolved mystery. Others might become defensive without thinking of the ramifications of this coping mechanism. There are always idiots who will blame others or make ridiculous excuses that even Helen Keller could see through. These reactions are nearly always the wrong ones to take.

A few years ago, when I was a City Letter Carrier one of my customers came out of his house to greet me as I approached. He was an elderly man who was always kind to me and very reasonable, but on this day I could see that something was troubling him. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that his relative in New York City had called him and told him that the birthday card they had sent him had been returned to them. It had been sent back as “Return to Sender, No Forwarding Order on File”. I was mortified by this news. I could not understand how this could have happened. I apologized and assured him that I would look into the matter and try to find an answer.

Having always taken great care and pride in my work I was perplexed by this situation. As I continued my route, I ran through the possibilities in my mind. Within a few minutes I was sure I had the answer. I realized that I had a new forwarding order that had started just a few weeks ago. The house number was the same, but the street was different. Complicating matters, the two last names were very similar. I had placed his card in the forwarding system, but since there was no match, it was returned. Very nice excuse, however in my heart I knew that it was my mistake. I went back to my customer and asked if I could have the address of his relative in New York. I went home that night and wrote a letter of apology to that person and included a new stamp since I had wasted theirs.

Not long after, my customer again greeted me as I approached his house, but this time he was beaming. He told me that his relative had called him and told him of the apology letter. They were so astonished and proud of it that they hung it on the bulletin board at their yacht club! They also sent me a return letter assuring me I was forgiven and thanking me for the letter I had sent. It was an eye opening event for me.

We all have our crap, and we all have to learn to own it.  That does not mean we should be wimpy about it. That would make respect nearly impossible to attain. So, if you find yourself accused of causing a problem that you know was not of your making, be sure to stand up for yourself. When people know you are able to own your crap and have actually witnessed you do it, they are far more likely to believe you when you look them in the eye and say, “whoa, this was not me”. That is a huge benefit of taking responsibility when it is appropriate.

People can respect a person that recognizes their own shortcomings and are far more likely to trust them and feel like they are dependable. When you see someone owning their crap you see a person with confidence and the ability to deal with adverse circumstances. So, if you have crap in your life, at home or on the job, don't walk around it. Walk right up to it, pick it up, sniff it if you must. Then own it.


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1 Response to Owning Your Own Crap

January 27, 2009 at 5:29 PM

Thanks for the lovely story! My new mantra shall be WWBD?

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