Setting Someone Straight

There are extremely few occasions when I’d recommend or indulge in using the words ALWAYS or NEVER.   They have a tendency to come back and bite you, and it’s usually appropriate.

I’d suggest, however, that the concept of setting someone straight is (almost) always a bad idea.  Like so many things, it may feel sooooo good to do it, but you will pay for that momentary pleasure…for a very long time.

Having spent close to half a century creating sculptures that no one on the planet actually has to have, (no spleens, heart valves or retinas used in my business) I know for a fact that setting customers straight is a lethal concept.  Better to wish them well.  Wish them the best and then go fix yourself a single malt…neat, and press on.  When it comes down to the nitty gritty, business is a game in which the winner gets the check or Visa card order.  The loser gets to  shake their fist.

In friendships and acquaintances, setting someone straight is an equally poor approach.  It’s akin to playing checkers in a relationship where your opponent is playing chess.  It’s  bad  in every way, but worst of all, it keeps the door open to further skirmishes.  My technique, and it is one which I rely on, is during those rare occasions when a friend or acquaintance has stepped so far over the line that there’s no possibility of reconciliation.  In that case, though it may seem counterproductive, allow your opponent/enemy/possible stalker/former associate to get that last word in.  Allow your (now) enemy to say the last word, make his irrational point and call you every name in the book.

Why?  Why would I want to do that?????  Because, once they have made their commitment to sending you a nuke letter or e-mail, they immediately batten down the hatches and wait for your nuclear reply.  They will wait a day.  They will wait a week or a month.  Candidly, I had a former neighbor wait a year and a half until (listen to this) he couldn’t take it any longer.

If you really and truly want to get rid of someone forever…no backsies, let them win.  Let them have the last word.  Be consoled in the reality that they will wait for an eternity for your return move.

I once had a gay employee who became “sweet on me”.  I knew it.  Pamela knew it.  My son, Cameron knew it and I attempted to work through it, keeping everyone busy.  Eventually, realizing that there were no similar emotions being returned, I began receiving exponentially more and more hostile letters.  The final one, I actually gave to Pam and Cam to “field” on my behalf.  It was incredibly nasty.  That was the end.  What (I’ll call him John) was hoping for was a bitch-fight so that things could continue.  That was denied him and for the record, I didn’t have to suffer the last nastiest words.  That was the end.  He’d said everything he could possibly say.

Those of you who are a tad younger might disagree because…it just feels so good saying all those things you want to say.  However, if you truly want to be rid of someone, let ’em get the last word in.

The corollary to this is nasty words between otherwise good and sometimes old friends.  If there’s something there worth saving…two bits of advice.  (1) Never, ever, ever, ever…ever knee-jerk reply in anger.  Time is a great healer of true friendships.  (2) Humor and candor are the two best salves of all to save a bad misunderstanding.  Oh, and if there’s a (3) as in, it was your fault for the fight in the first place, a straight-from-the-heart apology with no sidewards excuses whatsoever:  “Hey Tom:  I screwed up so hugely the other day that I’m at a loss for words.  I AM SORRY.  I HOPE YOU CAN FORGIVE MY SORRY ASS.  Depending on the situation, and if they’re basically a damned good friend, I go into a little soft-shoe and wander into a truly stupid joke.  “By the way, there’s these two penguins, a nun and a Jewish lawyer goin’ into a bar…”

Above are a  few paragraphs of “wisdom” derived from many years of trial and error.  If you agree, pass it on to someone you care about.  And if there’s someone you need to apologize to…maybe even an old wound, have the cajones to set things straight.  Just don’t set people straight.  It’s almost always a losing game.


P.S.  Yeah, no cool images this time.  I couldn’t think of any neat pictures of people screwing up their relationships.

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