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I’m the Villain in this Story (and that’s ok).

As you probably caught in the title… I’m the villain in this particular story. The fact that I’m only a little bit sorry for what I did, makes me even more of the villain in this story. I’m ok with that (even if I shouldn’t be). 

That said… There is a lesson buried in the story I’m about to tell you.

A Warning:
This is a going to be messy lesson. 
You probably won’t leave this article feeling good about me or how I acted (maybe that’s the reason I needed to write this?)

In short… this is about growth.
Messy fucking growth.

The Scene of the “Crime”.

I run weekly online Q and A sessions with the subscribers of my software, Social Rotation. The folks that show up for these calls come to learn about the new features that we are launching as well as pick up a tip or two on how to use the software more effectively in their business. When I finish up with the planned content for each week’s session, we open up the floor for Questions and then I answer everything that comes my way. I don’t ever leave the call until all of the questions for the week have been answered.

About a week ago, I was covering a topic that had been requested earlier in the week inside of the Private Facebook group where our customers hang out. It had to do with getting new clients (if you wanted to use the software to provide a service to others).

I was about 10 minutes into a tutorial on getting clients when a customer typed into the chat box and basically asked if I would be covering anything of substance on this particular call… particularly as it related to getting clients (they were either not paying attention or intentionally “heckling” me)

To clarify… 
This customer basically told me that they weren’t listening to anything I was saying, had completely ignored what I had been teaching about, and wanted to know if I planned on teaching on the topic they were interested in instead (which I had actually been teaching on for 10 minutes at this point).

To say that I got upset is an understatement.

I put a lot of effort into these calls… and I just lost it on this person.

 

How I handle this kind of question 99% of the time.
(aka: what I should have done)

I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t get these kinds of haphazard questions on a regular basis. Out of a great group of 50-100 people you are always going to have at least one person that isn’t paying attention, or is just being outright rude.

The chat window that I see in these sessions, however, can only be seen by myself and my fellow webinar organizers. Because of that fact, I typically get a little annoyed, ignore the question, and then move on to help the folks that are actually paying attention and want help.

At worst, I’ll throw out a simple answer and only show a little annoyance in my voice.

 

How I handled this interaction… poorly

This time… I did not keep my cool. Not even a little bit. I was pissed.

This isn’t the first time that this particular customer had “lagged behind” and come across as if they weren’t paying attention. And on this particular day it caused me to go a bit off the deep end.

I did the following in response:

  • I read the full comment out loud to all 50 people that were in attendance.
  • I made a comment about how I had been covering the topic for the last 1o minutes.
  • I asked them to tell me what I was missing… and that I… and everyone else… would wait for their response.
  • I stopped talking… and waited…

It did not go well with this particular customer from that point forward and I then moved on to telling them that neither the software or business model associated with it was a good fit for them and that they should cancel their account and request a refund for their past month.

In short… I handled this like a complete asshole.

 

The result of my outburst in response to this customer.

Sure… there were several customers on the call that probably got quite a bit of amusement out of this. There were several that told me they couldn’t believe that this person was acting the way that they were. 

But, Let’s be honest…
I created an enemy that didn’t have to end up an enemy.

This particular person would have burnt out after a few more weeks and I would have never had to deal with them again. Instead, they were gone right now.

I also acted completely unprofessional in front of my team and 50 of my customers.
(it doesn’t matter if it was justified). That leaves a lasting mark whether I like it or not.

 

What I told myself when this was over (the dumb rationalization)

I told myself that, even though I wasn’t happy with the way that I handled this, I was glad to be rid of a personality that didn’t fit into our world. I told myself that I was justified to act the way that I did. My team and the other callers had even backed me up on that… right?

I also told myself that this person needed a “wake-up call” because they were selling themselves short and not putting out the effort they needed to achieve the result they told me they wanted.

 

What I think triggered this behavior…

I’ve been digging deep on this one. I’ve really been trying to figure out what actually happened.
I didn’t just blow up at this person because they repeatedly kept missing the mark week after week and then they heckled me. 

I lost it because of other things going on in my life that week (isn’t that always the case?).

I had been dealing with accountants, banks, and lawyers in the days leading up to the call. Nothing serious, but it wasn’t the normal creative stuff that I get to spend my week on. Because of that, I was in a particularly sour and uninspired mood when I got on the call in the first place. 

 

No excuse… but I think it’s important to clarify what probably sent me over the edge and admit that it wasn’t just this customer or what they had actually said.

 

Why I’m the Villain here… but why I have to get over it.

At the end of all of this, there are a few core lessons that I’ve learned that I hope I can pass on to you.

  1. When I lose my temper in a position of power, I will never feel good about it (even if I was justified).
  2. Even though I was handling a “heckler”… I was still a “bully” in this situation (which is not who I ever want to be).
  3. I should do my best to avoid situations like this in the future.
    (If I felt the need to write this much about it, it means that it has bothered me far more than I previously realized).
  4. I’m (still) glad the customer won’t be back. They needed to go. We are not a good fit.
  5. I’ve got to get better at accepting that not everyone likes me… and there isn’t a damned thing I can do about it.

That last lesson is the key.

I’ve got to move on. An apology won’t cut it at this point and I still don’t even know how I would apologize considering the way this person interacted with me. I want to apologize for my benefit, not because I think they deserve it… and that’s not a good reason to give an apology.

I think I’ve just got to chalk it up as a loss and a lesson (which is something I’m terrible at accepting… I like to “fix” things).

What do you think?
Ever been in a situation like this one?

I’d love to hear from you.

Join the discussion

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1 comment
  • Damnit Ben! How could you be so HUMAN? Is what you did wrong. Yep. Could you have handled it better, sure. Will you do it again, probably not. The fact of the matter is, that was a great teaching moment for us all. We ALL will be put in similar situations and WILL have to deal with them. Most of the time, we’ll handle them they way you normally do, with patience and grace. Once in a blue moon, we will not. I have been there and one that (may make up the t-shirt, the customer is not only NOT Always Right, but sometimes are just so wrong. ) As you said before, as entrepreneurs we have the freedom to choose who we work with as clients. I always stress to my potential clients that I am looking for “cool people” to work with (underlying message “No assholes Allowed”). Life is too short, and I cannot afford to have my resourceful state where I best serve people disrupted by people that sap that energy for whatever reason. We ALL do things we sometime Regret, because we are HUMAN. You my friend give so much access to who you are as well as what you teach. That is one of the reasons we all love you so much. Bottom line, if you feel like I’m acting (in a rare moment) like an asshole, PLEASE tell me. I want to know! (Privately) If it’s a once in a while odd moment, let it go. Remember, in most cases the bad actors are dealing with issues that have nothing to do with you! Thanks for posting this! It’s something that as solopreneurs we all have to deal with at times. Now, I would just let it go! Please! We need you at peak form to lead us, as you normally are. Take care, love you buddy!