I recently witnessed an argument between an angry customer and five friendly employees of a café. Although I am still not quite sure what the problem was, it was very soon clear, that it would not come to an amicable solution. The female customer repeatedly underlined a special online offer, which the staff apparently had never heard of. The staff kept referring to their actual offer and listened patiently to the complaints of the customer over and over again. The husband of the angry woman repeatedly tried to end the conversation, explaining to his wife, that this argument wouldn’t lead anywhere. She, however, was not at all inclined to give up and continued to get herself more and more agitated. This went on for quite some time and there didn’t seem to be any other outcome than the woman getting angrier and the employees not being able to pursue their regular work day.
This whole scene reminded me of the following story by Anthony de Mello:
The Master went along a road.
Suddenly a man rushed out of a doorway, so that the two violently bumped into each other.
The man was terribly angry, yelled and cursed and insulted the master.
Thereupon, the master bowed with a gentle smile and said.. “I do not know who of us is to blame. But I’m not willing to waste my precious time answering this question. If I am guilty, I hereby apologise and ask for your pardon for my carelessness. If you were the culprit, you may just forget the incident.”
He bowed again and walked away with a smile.
[rough translation from German as I could not find the English version online]
Of course, it is sometimes important to clarify who bears responsibility (or blame). But at least as often this question will not help us. Especially in small everyday issues, the invested time and energy usually are disproportionate to the cause. So how about instead, at least from time to time, we just go our way with a smile?