When empathy takes a sideline
I was furious. I could feel my skin practically peeling off with it. Normally, when I’m this angry about something, I quickly see it as a symptom for something else: indignation hiding tiredness, rage hiding grief… I see the one behind the other and then I just FEEL the anger into submission.
Not this time. This email dropped a time sucking disappointment package right into my lap and I was MAD about it.
Sure, there were many things I could have gleaned from this email. I could have seen anxiety, fatigue and inexperience. I could have seen a delicate mind masquerading behind its direct tone. I could have even seen respect and thanks. If I’d been less tired myself. If I’d been looking forward to a break from everything being hard all the time a little less. If I’d felt more secure in what we’ve managed to achieve than I did right then.
From this not very generous place, I couldn’t see Wandering Cooks as others so often see it. I couldn’t see how the fun, bold, growing place we present to the world might seem invincible. I could only see its other side. That Wandering Cooks relies on the businesses that work in it as much as the public that comes to it. That Cooks is only as great as the community we create. And from this place, I could only see what this email didn’t contain. Not one apology. Not one. For stuffing us round.
That was the flint that created the spark… and so I did what I regret having done. I wrote back my hurt…
“I’m overwhelmed with this news. It’s really left us in the lurch and I’m struggling to get over the fact that you’ve managed to deliver this information without even one acknowledgement or apology for this…”
And unsurprisingly, received an equal dose back:
“I was shocked by what you decided to focus on in your response. As an incubator of small evolving businesses, I was shocked to see how much accountability you put on my single business for the broader performance of Wandering Cooks.”
Did I do that? Am I doing this? Yes I suppose I did and am. And that’s when I felt it. The exhaustion of having to hold all this responsibility up in the air. And the honour. I was ungenerous, and now I am the one that is sorry. That we struggle like maniacs to stay afloat doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take responsibility for the decisions that brought me to this place. It’s a place where someone can write to me and let me down without even knowing that’s what they’re doing. Wasn’t that the point, Ange? To make a business that can take away enough risk that others can create and then change their minds without losing everything?
Yes, it was. And it takes a village to build a business like ours. But it also takes an owner. I’ll own it then.