A pinch of hypocrisy and a serving of humble pie

**Written in March 2014, before my business partner (because I have no legal standing to partnership in China and for sake of ease, I simply say “boss”) subsequently backed out of our deal.  Perhaps I give him too much credit.  Nonetheless…**

Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  What’s even more ugly is when it’s my own…and that’s all too often.

A few weeks ago, my boss and I were having a discussion.  He was telling me what I had to do.  I never like being told what I have to do and when someone tells me I have to do something even if it’s cash the winning $1 million lottery ticket, I want to tell them to go f*ck themselves  (if my hypocrisy weren’t bad enough, I have defiance to go right along with it).  Resisting and resenting him for telling me what I had to do, but managing to maintain my composure nonetheless (small miracle), I politely declined.  Likely feeling frustrated and powerless, he threatened me.  Not with force or violence (he’s too much of a gentleman for that) but with my contract.  He threatened to toss it.  He also admitted he was too angry to talk about things and didn’t want to say anything he might regret (I suspected it was too late for that) and I obliged.  As we hung up, I found myself respecting the way he handled it, not the threatening but the admitting now wasn’t a good time to talk and for knowing it was better to end the conversation than to add fuel to already hot fire.   Eventually, we revisited the issue and after a discussion and my explanation, he relented.

The following week, it happened again.  He got angry and threatened to toss my contract.  Twice in two weeks was enough for me.  And when we talked two days later to iron things out, I told him so (Fortunately, whenever we do talk and seek a compromise, we’re able to find one.  It’s not hard.  It’s settling on a spot where we’re both equally unhappy).  “Mike, if every time you and your wife had an argument she threatened you with divorce, how would you feel about that?”  “I wouldn’t like that at all.  It would be unnecessarily strong reaction and I’d begin to worry my marriage was almost over” he responded.  “That’s exactly how I feel whenever we get into a fight and you threaten to toss my contract.  It’s uncalled for and it’s overkill.  I understand we have differences and for over a year we’ve done a great job of addressing the few that come up in a calm, constructive manner, but every once in a while one of us will lose our temper and say something we don’t mean.  I’d like to see that happen less often and I’d hope we wouldn’t resort to threatening when we did.”  “I agree.  I shouldn’t threaten our contract just because I’m angry” he conceded.

With as much nonsense as I’ve had to endure in my business dealings here in China, Mike has been an exception.  For the most part, he’s been a patient and attentive boss who is slow to anger and quick to honor his word.  While I can sense he’s making deals on the side that don’t include me, he’s quick to make concessions when I ask.  As a result, we’re a good fit.  And because he’s slow to attack, I don’t often feel threatened and don’t often lash out or lose my cool (if you’ve ever had to handle me, you know that kid gloves and charm are my undoing.  Absolutely.  In Madrid, I trained under a woman who knew my secret.  I’d huff and I’d puff and I’d threaten to blow my house down and she’d kindly and gently remind me of my asthma and offer me an inhaler.  On countless occasions, she’d disarm the drama by simply refusing to engage it.   Right as I’m about to burst and explode she’d say something like “You’re right” or “Take as much time as you need” and I’d feel my blustering thunderstorm dissipate into nothing more than a waft and a warm breeze.   So much did I admire her non threatening approach, I’d offer to apologize to an offended party so as to please her and demonstrate my loyalty.  In short, she knew how to handle me.  Mike is still learning).   Today was little different.  After withholding some of my pay for a mistake he made, I balked and reminded him I wasn’t to blame.  It’s usually when Mike realizes he’s made a misstep and someone else has seen it that he gets angry and that’s exactly what happened today.  I reminded him that his error shouldn’t result in my fine and he fumed.  He shouted a few times (This struck me as odd.  What was unusual was not the fact that there was shouting but that I wasn’t the one who was doing it.  I have a long history of conversations disintegrating into shouting matches, but I’m almost always the one who’s doing the screaming and when I’m not, it surprises me) and rather than take it in stride, I resorted to a pissing contest.  “Oh yeah?  Well, if you don’t pay me, I’m not teaching today’s class!”

Five hours and a few phone calls later, there it was staring me in the face, my hypocrisy.  I had done exactly what I had faulted Mike for doing the week before.   What followed my gnawing conscience was a phone call, a confession and my eating of crow.  Luckily, Mike was a gracious host.  He didn’t insist on serving dessert…humble pie.

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