This past Tuesday near Roanoke, Virginia at my client’s offices, my co-worker and I were called to a meeting about special pricing, but weren’t told why we were asked to the meeting. As I rounded the corner into the conference room table area, I saw that there were about 10 people already there, including two Vice Presidents. I figured we might be in for an ambush.
And we were. Last summer, at this client, we had worked hard to get someone to work with us to set up their pricing, but we ran into a lot of trouble. No one in the business area wanted to get involved with the new software implementation project. We raised the issue with the president of the company, but to no avail. Someone from the information technology area got assigned instead of the people who really set pricing in the sales areas.
Last fall the president had raised an issue with their special pricing process, and we were asked to help. But again we couldn’t get anyone to work with us. Two of the people that wouldn’t work with us were eventually let go, but still no progress.
Now, we are about to go live with the new software and are entering the testing phase with no time left for new development. But here we were in a meeting with 10 people about special pricing with 2 VP’s. And they pressed us to develop a solution. We explained it would be difficult, and would take one of their people in the sales area committing themselves to learning the software. It would take about 60 hours of effort on their part and our part. And as the project manager responsible for launching the software on time, I had to explain that we were out of time to take on this problem now that we had to test and go live with what had already been developed. That we didn’t have time to take this special pricing problem on now, or it would delay our go live.
But as I started to explain the problem, one of the VP’s, Joe, cut me off. He raised his voice and starting yelling at me. He said, “You’re not listening. You don’t understand that this will cripple our order entry department, and you better do what I am telling you.” But I had listened. And many times, not just in the meeting I was in, but in meetings the day before, and the day before that. And I hadn’t said more than half a sentence in this meeting before he cut me off.
I drew on my teachings and my experience with yellers: yellers such my football coaches, previous managers, and myself. I’ve studied a lot about anger, because I suffer from it. And I’ve studied a lot about how to deal with them.
Number 1 – make sure you are listening, and after you have listened repeat back to them what they are saying to you. James 1: 19 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen . . .” Make sure the yeller knows that they have been heard.
I said, “Joe, you don’t need to yell at me.” And I tried to explain, but he continued repeating himself in an intense manner. I remained calm and let him talk for a while longer – which is rule #2 and #3: Be slow to speak and be slow to anger.
Finally, I said, “I’ve listened to you, now would you listen to me?” He said yes. I said, “I understand that the current special pricing process needs to be improved. The way it works today is not efficient, causing customers to not get the discounts they are entitled to, and it requires a lot of rework and credits being granted after the fact. I am not saying that the process shouldn’t be improved. I am not saying it is not important. I am saying we don’t have time to work on this now, or we will delay the project. We should work on it after we get the software already developed live and in place.”
The rest of James 1: 19 goes like this “. . . slow to speak and slow to become angry,” I had successfully waited about 20 minutes into a 30 minute meeting to make my point. I had spent 20 minutes listening to a point I had already heard about 5 times over the past 9 months. I was doing okay, and much better than I usually do. Many times in my life, I’ve butt in, and insisted on being heard, and I’d gotten mad when someone yelled at me.
But I’ve learned anger does more harm than good. That it ruins relationships and hurts you and other people. On February 11, 2007, Keith Stillinger said it to me this way, “Anger at someone is really anger at God, saying we are upset with God about our circumstances.” And God loves us too much to want to hurt us. I need to be diligent in my love to him and other people, even if they are yelling at me.
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
And the next 2 verses in James 1 (verse 20 and 21) say, “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
And Joe, the VP of Customer Service heard me, and he apologized for yelling at me. And the other VP in the room, Sam, said, “Craig, you make a good point. And we need to see who can work with you and your team to learn the software before we ask you to do this. Let us think about this and get back to you.”
After the meeting, the other VP, Sam, came to me and said he was impressed by how I handled Joe. Sam said, “Joe has often done that to me, and he’s gotten under my skin. Then I’ve gotten angry also. You stayed calm and unwavering. You handled that very well.” Little did he know it’s taken 53 years of practice, learning, and countless failures to be able to accomplish this. It was Jesus, my friends, and my family that have taught me to not get angry and to be patient in listening. My wife Regina has been patient with me, and shown me this countless times in her actions, in her dealings with me, and with many others. And it’s been a good lesson, and one I still strive to model in my life. So be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.