Sunday, July 19, 2009

Six Men Won't Fit In a Bucket

Unhappy because power had not been restored to her home after a damaging storm, an irate customer called her local power company to complain.*

Customer: I can see the truck from my window, and there are six men out there, but only one of them is in the bucket fixing anything on the pole! The rest of them are just standing around on the ground! Why aren’t those other men working?

Power employee: Well, ma’am…all six of them won’t fit in the bucket.

Customer: Oh. (click)

As a former power employee myself, the story made me laugh, and then it made me think: How many times do we get all worked up because all the men aren’t in the bucket?

The caller had a single point of view – her power was off and she wanted it back. She had limited knowledge – she knew that power was reconnected by the man at the top of the pole, but she knew nothing about the number of men it took to remove and replace a damaged pole, cut and move fallen limbs, or ensure the safety of the guy in the bucket. She had limited perspective – her pole was the only one she could see. Yet with so little to go on, she was sure there was slacking going on and that said slacking was the reason she was still in the dark.

How often do we do that? How often to we get all fired up about a situation before we really know what’s going on?

So often, situations go like this: Someone does something that seems offensive to me. I have limited knowledge, limited perspective, and only my own little problem in my sights. So what do I do? I invent all those other details, filling in the blanks with just enough information to support my righteous indignation, making up a story that supports the offense theory and fuels my ire. The more I think about it, the madder I get!

Why is that? In the best of all worlds, we would have a wider view, one that made it harder to focus on a potentially offensive act or word. We’d resist feeling offended until we had all the facts and knew the intent and context from the other person’s perspective. That might require a conversation, some questions, some honest listening, but it would be worth it. If that’s too much trouble, we would at least make up a story that felt good rather than one that just makes us madder. If we are supplying the missing details, why choose the ones that cause the most misery? Do we enjoy having our feelings hurt?

Things are not always what they seem, and offense is taken far more often than it is really given. Next time you find your knickers all wadded up about something, take a step back, refocus, and learn the facts. You won’t be giving up your right to a good head of justifiable steam if the situation really warrants it. You also won’t waste your precious energy writing a story to piss yourself off. Before you get mad, remind yourself that six men won’t fit in a bucket.

*An all-too true story borrowed and paraphrased from my friend Indigo Satin.

5 comments:

  1. LOL .. well told, my friend. And then there was the one where a lady kept giving us her post office box #, not her physical address. I heard my exasperated line supervisor tell her ... "Lady, I can't mail you a damn lineman !" I swear it's true.

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  2. Getting the facts takes...

    COURAGE. Courage to ask, courage to listen, courage to sit with the uncomfortableness of "not knowing for sure" until you can get the rest of the story.

    TRUTHFULNESS. Being able to be honest when confronted and not lie (if you said/did it, then own it), being able to be honest with yourself about your bad behavior and not just push it off on the person who is hurt and say they "misinterpreted" and you had no part in creating the pain.

    REAL CARING. Caring enough to ask, caring enough to put the result of a better relationship ahead of being right, caring enough to say I'm sorry because (usually) that's what we want to hear (that we mean enough to the other person that they will affirm that they DO NOT want to hurt us), caring enough to love the HUMAN in front of us and not the expectation of perfection we sometimes equate to friendship.

    RELEASE. The ability to release the pain and errors of the situation and move forward only with the good lessons learned, the ability to release a need for revenge or payback, the ability to release judgment that the person who was hurt was "oversensitive" or "didn't know you at all".

    Again, good post!

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  3. Beautiful my friend,

    And so very true...

    "Not taking things personally" is so very hard sometimes... to widen our perspective and see the bigger picture,

    But its what we need to do,

    Much love and thanks for the powerful reminder,

    M

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  4. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Perspective depends on so much: your own state of mind; where you are on your spiritual path; the circumstances of the day. As I'm writing this, I realized you can summarize all these dependancies with one word: attitude. And I am reminded that although you can't choose your circumstances, you CAN choose your attitude:)

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  5. So grateful for all your voices!

    As Maithri (SO glad to see you here!), and the anonymous poster (though I know who you are!) said...this isn't always easy. And Sitara pointed out that it takes work...real effort. My belief is that the work and the effort required to change perspective is worth every bit of the energy we put into it.

    I also believe the world will be a better place for our efforts. There are many ways to spread love in the world. The personal work we do to make ourselves more whole, more open to giving and receiving love, affects the entire web. It starts with each of us.

    I AM what we can do about it. YOU ARE what we can do about it. This is not an issue that we can solve "in the world." Aside from sparking thought and consider-ation, there is nothing I can do to make another do the personal work required to affect this change in his/herself. If we are to change the way the world works, we each have to change the way we work, one person at a time. My greatest contributions to that effort are to do my own work, share my journey, start conversations, raise awareness, and support others as they do their own work. That's how we create a chain of new perspectives, of open hearts and minds...and chain of love.

    This blog is one way I work to forge those links. It's not much, but it's a start. Sometimes starting is the hardest part.

    Thank you all for singing along. Isn't the music beautiful?

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Sing with me...