I had an impactful learning experience today.
I own a small company with one employee as a side hustle. We have a regular customer who gives us steady work, but sometimes getting payment from him is a challenging prospect.
My employee will do the work and then the check-writers will be gone for the day. Or he'll promise to pay over QuickBooks and then either take his time or question everything she already explained in the paper invoice copy sitting on his desk.
I also know that this person has a history of trauma.
I had to call today because a QuickBooks invoice had not been paid in a timely manner, and we can't waste time driving to his location to get that check. I wasn't interested in starting a fight, but he came in with his boxing gloves on about how this was not his responsibility that she didn't get that paper check.
My employee and I have a great relationship, so it was easy to know what the fabrication was on his end.
I never raised my voice, but countered his arguments with boundaries and restrictions. We don't want to be taken advantage of, so it's important to sound tough, right?
Eventually, he agreed to send the check in the mail. I am also waiting to see how true that is.
Looking back on this conversation, I realize that I might have made more progress with him if I'd made it clear that I don't care if he dropped the ball. I just want to work this out. I could have helped him feel safe, rather than for him to feel like he was on the ropes and defending himself. I want it to be easier to get paid next time instead of him feeling like he has to protect himself.
I'm sure anyone could argue that his defensiveness was his problem alone, and that causing someone to feel threatened gives us some kind of power in an interaction. But it doesn't. The other person is going to continue doing dysfunctional things to survive. If they feel safe with us, we have many more routes to getting things done and solving problems than if people play games so that they can get by in this world.
Let's be kind to one another and help each other feel safe with one another so that we can honestly and sustainably solve our problems.