I stared on in disbelief, as he circled me, his prey, without ever moving from his seat; snarling, as he marked his territory.
Rewind to 1 minute before:
Setting: Chamber of Commerce Networking Luncheon
We had all just sat down at the table. People were chatting and laughing and getting to know each other. I always try to sit with people I didn’t know so that I can expand my network and meet new people.
“So tell me about your golf tournament. What are you raising funds for?” queried a rather gregarious tablemate as he stuffed a wad of roll in his mouth, more butter than bun.
I beamed, proud of the work I was doing. “100% of proceeds will go to providing direct service to women and children who are victims of violence,” I began. “Services include, counselling, a food bank and clothing program; and services to help with basic needs so victims can focus on healing and moving forward.”
And then it came:
“If I have to hear another word about poor suffering women, “ he sneered, throwing his arms in the air, “I’m going to be sick!”
And then 14 expectant eyes were suddenly trained on me!
I was gob-smacked! I had never seen somebody behave so appallingly at a networking event in my life!
Through my mind whizzed, “what an arrogant buffoon! A misogynistic swine!”
But I could hardly say that out loud and sink to his level.
“That sounds like a great cause to support. I’ll bring a few customers and we’ll take a foursome. Sounds like it’ll be fun!” defused Len, the tablemate. Clearly a Natural Networker!
“We had a blast last year!” jumped in another.
And the tension was just as quickly defused, as it had been thrust on the air,
The rest of the lunch went by relatively uneventfully, but my mind was awhirl at his inexplicable behaviour. His inexplicable despicable behaviour!
He avoided my gaze for the next hour. And while people were polite to him, nobody really engaged him.
He tried to recover, to no avail. I heard him say that his name was James ,and that he was in the direct mail marketing business. Needless to say, when the event was adjourned, the business cards he’d distributed, lay ignored on the table.
He looked downcast. Maybe he was having a bad day, nonetheless, the damage had been done. And he’d done it to himself.
As he rose to leave, I blocked his escape route. I just could not let it go.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” he began, but I cut him off.
Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy. ~ Saadi
“I just wanted to thank you, “I explained. “It’s a good reminder that not everybody is interested in everything I might have to say. You gave me a lesson and an opportunity to reflect and think about how I would handle that next time. So, thank you.
There was no need to remind him of his rudeness. He knew. And he stood there astonished at my startling speech.
He nodded and we each went our separate ways. I felt better.
I could have let him have it. I could have been rude. But that is not my character and that certainly is not my brand.
I know that every choice I make is a reflection of who I am and the brand I represent.
After that day, and at other networking events, I would always be sure to say hello. I discovered that we shared mutual friends who were freemasons, and I heard through the grapevine, that he’d been asking around about me.
Thereafter he always went out of his way to talk to me, or to introduce me to new connections. I grew to know a little about him and his wife, gleaning that they loved opera music. That Christmas I gave them a CD that I thought they would enjoy. And over time, surprisingly, we became friends and community partners.
Even more surprising he became a champion of the cause, joining in efforts to both fundraise and even to act as an advocate, speaking out and raising awareness about Violence Against Women and poverty issues.
We never spoke of his outburst. There was no need. He chose who he wanted to be.
One day, with surprising sincerity, he thanked me. He revealed that despite his hopes for her future, his daughter had become a social worker and was heavily involved with women’s issues. Through our connection, he was able to open up, reconnect with her, and renew their relationship.
What an amazing sequence of events, all from a little patience and kindness.
You never know the difference a little compassion can make, like ever-expanding ripples across the water, broadening its impact.
It’s not always easy to be patient with people. But it’s usually worth your while.
Please share any comments or stories.
Has your kindness caused a ripple effect?