The Woodcutter Principle

So I know these two women that are both super smart, attractive, kind-hearted, and have spirited personalities. One would have a hard time assuming that either of these ladies had trouble standing up for themselves.  Yet… both often consider voicing their opinions as “confrontation” or  “being mean”.

To be clear, I would feel very comfortable saying that just about anyone that met these two would agree that they are pleasant, sweet, and enjoyable.  And I have spent time around both when they are having a rough day and even in those moments they are gentle and rather optimistic.

We were all talking at one point about how to set boundaries in a way that is effective but not bitchy.  And it sounds easy enough but in truth, people do judge you if you stand up for yourself even in a serious but not attacking way. There is something about how others see us when we are not just bowing to the will of others. It makes the person we are talking to, ourselves, and those around feel uncomfortable. It really isn’t pleasant when feel like you are being treated poorly, want to say something, and yet know that others will not like it.

The concept of self-respect is tricky. You want to know that you are respecting your values and not being taken advantage of AND you want to be respectful of others. Most people are not interested in treating others in the poor way they were just treated. Hence, the balance of the situation comes into play directly.

A few days later one of the lovely women told us that she had an experience to put this concept into action. She was looking to get some wood cut at a local store. The order was placed over the phone and told it would be ready, the woman had a few other things pressing, so she ended up going to pick up the wood a day later. She got there and was told to go out back, and the man cutting the wood was abrasive before the woman had a chance to ask a question.

She moved past the disinterested projection of the woodcutter, and asked for her order. The man curtly said it wasn’t ready and she would have to come back later. In that moment, what was she to do? She didn’t expect this, she didn’t do anything to provoke this situation. She was  flustered and left the situation.

She went and sat in her car and composed herself. She centered and realized that she had the opportunity to handle this situation in a strong way. She called the store and explained the situation to the manager calmly. The manager apologized but also made excuses. The woman took some deep breaths and decided that she would like the store to make up for the order not being ready and the rude treatment from the man. She explained that they would need to cut the wood AND deliver it to her house for free.  The manager tried to tell her this wasn’t possible. Yet with a strong but pleasant tone, the woman explained that this was not acceptable. She expected this to be done or she would cancel the order and no longer shop at the store and the manager had an opportunity to make the situation right with a customer or to make it worse.  The manager hesitantly agreed and had the wood cut and delivered for free.

As we listened to this story, I felt chills come over me. This is how it is done. In the moment… real life… all the feelings of being unsure, afraid, and pushing beyond… it was there. I just knew that this is an important lesson that we can incorporate. This sweet woman was able to stand up for herself and to know that she was worth being treated better AND was able to express it in a non-threatening-mean way.

The very next week the other gentle caring woman who had also heard this story, came back with a story of her own success. She was at work and customer was being rude, hurtful, and obnoxious to another employee. In that moment, she knew that she wanted to say something but was fearful of what kind of dynamic it would  create. She decided that she could state her feelings in a courteous way AND make it clear that the behavior being exhibited wasn’t something she felt was respectful to the other person.  So she did.  A few hours later, the customer returned and apologized.

Both of these women are learning how to be respectful of themselves and others at the same time in situations that are not difficult.  We now call this approach “the woodcutter”. It feels tremendous to be around people who are working to integrate a desire to be strong for themselves AND respectful to others.

Consider the woodcutter principle next time you are feeling like you want to run away from a situation or are afraid you will be a jerk if you say something. There are at least three of us out there doing this… you won’t be alone… try it!


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