unable to fulfil our commitment

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A couple of months ago I booked a one night stay in a farmhouse. We were travelling to Norfolk and needed to stay over. We booked via an online website. A broker. A middle man.

A few weeks before we were due to travel, an email arrived, from the broker.

“Unfortunately, the owner has informed us they are unable to fulfil the booking.”

My first reaction was, ‘damn, that’s a shame’ – it looked nice and I was looking forward to staying there. Quickly that evaporated into a sense of betrayal and deceit. Why had the owner let me down, and worse, why wouldn’t they just say why? I wanted truth.

Unable to get more information, I was ready to move on with my life and put it behind me. The broker had other ideas though. Daily for two weeks I got emails asking me to book an alternative. A venue they could recommend. It was twenty miles away from where I wanted to be. So, I ignored the emails. They served only to remind me that I had been let down. To continue to feed my disappointment. To turn it into a grumble, a bitterness.

Eventually the broker emailed a confirmed cancellation.

Then, two weeks before I had been due to travel, they emailed me, inviting me to have a lovely stay at the very place that had been unable to fulfil my booking. Now they were annoying me.

Then today, three days before my aborted stay, I received a new email. It says, “It’s time to put the finishing touches on your trip. Whether you’re travelling halfway around the world or just down the road, you deserve a great stay. So we’ve put together tips on how to make the most of your time and money.”

When we get it wrong, we simply get it wrong. When we get it wrong and then keep reminding everyone we got it wrong, we really, really get it wrong.

How often do we as human beings, interacting with others around us, effectively ‘send an email’ through not noticing our mistake. Through blindly repeating it? Through inadvertently drawing attention again to the error? Through not seeing another human being with their rights and needs?

It’s not about always being right. Nor is it about never making a mistake. It’s about noticing when we get it wrong. About truth, about honesty. But more, it’s about respect. It’s about noticing an individual. Seeing a human being. Honouring another person and their feelings. Their clever marketing, their smart systems, their ‘customer service’ failed to see me. A commitment to see the person. That’s the commitment they were unable to fulfil.

chariots of fire


Today the peace of a quiet cup of tea al fresco in Windsor was disturbed by two drivers disputing one parking space.

Both pulled in from opposite directions, both at forty five degrees, both nose to nose. One sounded the car horn in a pained expression of perceived right. Ironically one car white, the other black, like monochrome representations of right and wrong, good and evil.

They sat, drivers in cars, both with their metallic stake in the ground. Two full minutes passed before the driver of black got out and approached the other vehicle. “I was waiting.” he proclaimed. Inaudible exchanges took place, peppered with finger pointing and fist waving. He returned to his car and urged forward his chariot a full foot so that its nostrils were breathing into the bonnet of his white opponent.

Three full minutes of stand off passed. Then the driver of white emerged. His rant built around his claim that the first driver had in fact been waiting further down. More pointing, raised voices and threatening gestures. In both cars the female passengers looked away. As if eye contact might condone or inflame the behaviour of their chariot champions. Passers by could be heard to wager on the outcome, or to chastise the antics of these proud, if somewhat childish, warriors. Some tutted, some raised eyes skyward in a knowing nod to each other.

The second driver returned to his trusty white steed.

Three or four more minutes passed. The driver of white reversed out and pulled alongside the black. More words exchanged. Then black pulled into the space and a little beyond. White jerked forward then quickly into reverse. Surely a back to back conflict wasn’t about to begin?

But no. Black ceded the space. White triumphed like a checkmate move on the chess board. Black King was taken.

Pride?
Competitiveness?
Anger?
A sense of right and wrong?
Stubbornness?
Male testosterone?

Who knows? Human behaviour is always purposeful, but often the driver behind it is invisible to us. Just like today’s car joust, the actions attract attention, but the motivations remain hidden.

the problem with the junior doctor debate…

prejudice map truth NLP
I listened this morning on the radio to a debate about the proposed changes to junior doctors contracts and pay.

First the minister, Jeremy Hunt, spoke about the intention, what was proposed and why it was needed. Then a junior doctor spoke about concerns, what they perceive is really going on and what was needed.

I don’t know the truth. I don’t know much about the health service. I don’t know what is reality today. I don’t know what will address any concerns and make the future better. I don’t know who is right, who is wrong or indeed if either are.

Yet I noticed my own prejudice appearing. Firstly, politicians aren’t to be trusted, are they? Whereas surely I can trust a doctor? Then, the doctor described how they would lose a third of their income, yet weren’t currently working longer hours than legislation required … “Really? Aren’t you exaggerating for effect?” I thought. Then after each quoted statistics about weekend deaths, different of course, I noticed my mistrust of statistics emerging – “you can make any number say whatever you want”. There was talk of strike action, which fired up my dislike of the concept of unions, who purport to protect workers yet often operate out of lavish premises funded by their members subsidies. And so it continued…

I can’t get to the truth.

Not just because each party is portraying their version of the truth in the media to their own ends, but because, even if that weren’t so, my own prejudice prevents me from seeing and knowing what is. From being clean. From knowing the truth.

How often do we blind ourselves to truth? Whether that be unconscious bias in diversity, judgement based on looks, preconceived boxes we put people, roles, attitudes into? Beliefs about the world which make our map of its workings uniquely distorted to us?

I don’t know what the right thing to do is in the junior doctor debate and I can’t influence an outcome. But I now know more about how much I prevent myself from accessing that awareness, accessing a truth.

I can do something about that.