I met a man who has a temper, who if he wasn’t almost a foot shorter than me would have loved to stand over me. He was unhappy with a small clerical error and he was here to rake someone over the coals. Anyone would suit. There was shouting. Harsh words and grumpiness. And yes, the mistake was ours, but I couldn’t help wondering what sort of person NEEDS to be so forceful in this sort of situation. He was red in the face, swearing and demanding to know who exactly had made the mistake.

No, I said, as I shook my head, I didn’t know.

What? I thought to myself, so you can go after them directly? No way mate.

He never really cooled off. Red in the face and complaining loudly he told us about how unwell he is. A laundry list of items and complaints. One theme stuck with me. Complaints. This man was a ball of complaint. No one here and no one out there could make this man any different. I had to be different or continue to have the same conversation with him for another 20 minutes. So instead of pushing back against him, arguing and standing my ground, I stopped it all. I stopped talking, I kept listening, I did nothing else. I waited.

Soon there was a gap in conversation. I had heard enough about the past mistakes, taking the time to tell him that I was sorry the mistake happened. I had heard enough about what his plans were moving forward. So I thanked him for letting me know all that, thanked him for taking the time to make me aware of it and told him I would put someone else in contact with him. He got up to leave. Issue closed, moving on. I went back to my desk.

I was relieved. Annoyed a little but relived to have it be over. Proud that I hadn’t been drawn into a lengthy battle over who was right and who was going to have the upper hand in this one. I was going on with my work when I heard something… He was still out there, complaining. Apparently on the way out someone had the misfortune of asking how his day was and he was telling her. I chuckled a little, shook my head and sighed.

Some people, they just like to complain.