Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2010 (Minneapolis, MN) with:

The Way Of The Warrior And The Chance Not To Be Fired

By Ben Nadel on

Over the last few weeks, an individual in my life has launched a serious campaign of hatred against me. These messages started out with simple feelings of discontent; but, over the last week or two, these feelings have escalated to extreme and very explicit feelings of hatred. I tried ignored all of these messages, hoping that the hatred would simply subside. But then, the situation finally culminated with a message over the weekend that I felt I had to view as a threat of physical violence. At this point, I responded with legal counsel in tow and asked never to be contacted again.

At first, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. But, as I began to think about it, I started to feel that I did not act well.

Here at work, we strongly believe in giving people a "chance not to be fired." By that, I mean that if we have someone who is not performing, we never fire them right away. Rather, we discuss with them where their efforts are falling short and we give them a chance to change their ways; in essence, we are give them a chance not to be fired. We have this catchy, zen-like phrase for it, but really it is just another label for "communication;" we have a framework here at work in which proper communication channels are encouraged.

The reason we have this mentality in place is because we don't want to make assumptions. Yes, we'd like to believe that every developer wants to turn in top quality work. Yes, we'd like to believe that every developer knows how to test their own code. Yes, we'd like to believe that every developer knows how to do a thorough job. But, the fact is, we cannot make the assumption that what is considered "good" or "bad" or "obvious" by our own value system is also considered "good" or "bad" or "obvious" by the value systems of those around us.

In the way of the warrior, the 3rd agreement is to never make assumptions. We, as warriors, do this because we understand that we each see the world through our own eyes and through the context of our own truth systems. Therefore, we understand that it is not right to judge people with the assumption that their beliefs align properly with ours.

In the matter of the person who has taken such a malicious attitude towards me, I realize that this agreement is where I have failed to act well. I ignored this person's messages of hatred thinking that they would go away. I never once spoke up and said that what they were doing was wildly inappropriate and must stop. I assumed that this person's value system was equal to that of mine and therefore I judged this person based on what I know to be true. And, because I made this assumption, I did not give this person "a chance not to be fired."

Furthermore, I realize that I have also acted out of fear. I did not speak up sooner because part of me was afraid to be a bad friend. Part of me was afraid to hurt this person's feelings. Part of me was afraid that this person's emotions were a valid reflection of my own true character. Then, my final act was done out of fear of violence. All of my actions with this person have been made out of fear. But, a warrior never acts out of fear. A warrior acts out of love. And, the most loving action that I should have taken would have been to communicate with this person and give them a chance not to be fired.

I did not act in the way of the warrior; I did not act out of love. I let my emotions control the situation. But, at least I am now reflecting on it and can take steps to make sure that this does not happen again. A warrior always does his best.



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Reader Comments

has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but when you mentioned 'the way of the warrior' i thought you were referring to something else.

if you've got the time, check out dan millman's "peaceful warrior".

book: http://www.amazon.com/Way-Peaceful-Warrior-Changes-Lives/dp/0915811898
movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0438315/

i've seen the movie (good flick, worth watching). ordered and received the book but haven't started reading yet.

figured i'd pass that along.

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As a civilized human being, an individual in this society, you have every right to take whatever measures possible to not lead yourself into a situation in which you feel uncomfortable about. From the start, this person has sent you messages that definitely do not leave the receiver feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. This is nothing similar to a "not getting fired" situation in a work/office setting. Here is a case in which you truly felt threatened. You acted as any stable person would. By ignoring negativity doesn't make you less than a warrior, but more of one. For me, a warrior is one who knows right from wrong, one who is strong enough to choose the correct path to walk down, one who doesn't get sucked into the everyday bulls**t that occurs in everyday life. A warrior is also one who knows what he is in for and what to expect. You were clearly blind sighted by this persons actions. The fact that you didn't lash out right away without thinking things through shows strength to me. You should never fuel the fire unless you too are looking for drama. Most times if you leave a fire to burn, eventually it dies down on its own. Yet, there are times when a fire becomes to dangerous to handle alone. It's OK to ask for assistance in a dangerous situation. All in all, I think you handled yourself wisely.

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@Charlie,

The Peaceful Warrior was a great movie. And, it has in fact influenced me greatly as well:

http://www.bennadel.com/blog/1140-The-Mind-Is-Just-A-Reflex-Organ.htm

Actually, last night, as I was reflecting upon my situation and my actions, I had a desire to go an rent this. I also have the book on my bookshelf, but have not read it yet. Maybe it's the right time.

@NJ,

I think we are in agreement; I am not feeling bad about my final actions - I think I did the right thing in order to protect myself. Where I think I failed was letting it escalate to that level without ever saying anything. In reality, I simply did not communicate what I was thinking because I assumed that this person knew what I was thinking - I assumed that this person understood and intended these statements to be hurtful.

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I've run into the same thing at my job. I responded to the agitator by telling him that he was going to quit threatening me or I would be forced to take legal action. This worked out better than I had thought possible because not only did this person stop the behavior they became much easier to work with over the next year. I never did remind him of the threats he made after he asked to "start over", and because of this we got along splendidly. Secretly I hated working with him and despised him as a person, but you know what they say "keep your enemies close"

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@Roe,

Excellent comment. I think this is a great case-in-point of someone who simply was not seeing the situation in the same way; and, when you stressed to them that this stuff was really wearing on you, they wanted to take action to remedy the situation.

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@Ben - I do not think you handled this wrong in any way, even when you were not responding to the initial messages. I am going to break agreement #3 and make the assumption that these messages were designed to elict a response from you. The fact that you did not repsond is probably what escalated the situation.

One thign I learned from my years in EMS, no matter how kindly or professionally you speak to someone or treat someone, if they are truly an asshole, in the end, it won't matter, they will still behave the same.

I applaud your patience for not responding initially.

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@Scott,

I am sure as am EMS guy you saw some pretty crazy stuff :) I am not saying that it would not have come to this end eventually. What I am concerned about is that I feel I never was proactive about allowing for an alternate ending.

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Ben - you have to remember, Bushido was written at a time when, if all else failed, you could just pick up a sword and cut someones head off. In todays society, you can't do that (and get away with it), so the whole "warrior" thing should be taken in perspective.

While I commend you for trying to respond with love, the reality is it should have been tough love. Really tough love. Like, "I'm calling the Police" love, followed by "You're fired" love. There is no place for hate in the workplace - you go to work to WORK. To further the objectives of the company that pays you. If you have a begrudging attitude to another team member to the point where it affects a professional relationship, you are not working with the interest of the company in mind and are surplus to requirements. A second chance is not as long and/or forgiving as a first chance.

Cheers,

David

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Hey Ben,

Totally off topic, but I just noticed your points system. How long has that been going on? That is a really cool idea!

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@David,

That is true - times have changed; however, control of one's emotions and a journey of self exploration is timeless. Also, I do not want to miscommunicate - this was not someone who worked with me. I was simply drawing a parallel between the methodologies we have at work at the methodologies I would like to have in my personal life.

@Brandon,

Since around Christmas. Check this out:

http://www.bennadel.com/index.cfm?dax=blog:1432.view

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@Ben,

As we all know, hindsight is always 20/20 ... woulda, coulda, shoulda.

And as for your "situation," I know there's at _least_ two sides to every story. Who knows what was going on the other person's head for sure ... heck, maybe they don't even know either. We can never really be in someone else's shoes, as you point out.

However, I think your reflectiveness on the situation is a good thing. Being able to look back and find "lost" opportunities to possibly handle the situation differently makes you better equipped if it should happen again.

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@Steve,

Thanks man. One of the attitudes of the warrior that I like the best is that a warrior never blames himself - a warrior simply takes responsibility for his actions. I am not going to blame myself what has happened; I am simply going to take responsibility for it and figure out how I can use this exploration to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

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It is hard to believe someone would be hostile towards you Ben. Your such a nice guy!

Just recently I was thinking about the lack of communication and its many consequences. In my case I was watching some active volunteers turning hostile because the organization they cared about wasn't paying attention to them. Lack of communication drove them to frustration, but was quickly turned around by a quick phone call.

Seems to me identifying the situation at the time communication is most needed is often difficult. Its clear after the fact of course. I have been on a kick here at the office to remind people to stop having email conversations when they turn into (or are likely to turn into ) 20 post long threads that get nowhere. Pick up the phone!

On a side note, Ben you almost have enough points to buy yourself an itunes gift card! :-)

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@Joshua,

Miscommunication within a company is a very interesting thing. Some times, in my experience, this is even done intentionally! One employee will be told one thing, another a different story - both of them are told that nobody else knows anything; then of course, people talk and you find out that there is this whole complex disinformation campaign that has been put into play... and for what end? To have your employees feel like they are being played with? Such a waste.

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@Ben, Did you save the mail or whatever they were sending you as evidence in the event it needs to be presented in court or whatever? I would hold on tightly to that in case you need it, just in case....

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Hey Ben

You sound like a true gentleman and a calm, peaceful human being. To be honest, your reactions to the situation highlight what type of person you are, and I personally believe you handled it with diginity and honesty.

In regards to the final 'issue' and backing up your response with 'legal aid', an individual, however peaceful, can only be pushed so far, and if there is a fear of personal safety (or any feeling of discomfort) then actions must be taken.

I truly believe you acted with the heart of a warrior, and you should be very proud of who you are and what you stand for.

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I think part of you is right, in that there is some possibility a carefully-phrased response could have deflected and maybe defused things. But, that said, this being the Internet, I'm sad to say the way of the warrior is either dead, or largely doesn't exist here.

So, yes, it's *possible* you could have started going back-and-forth, found common ground, sorted things out, etc. But some people are just trolling the web looking for fight, and you engaging them could have just turned into the encouragement they were looking for. I also think anyone who sees a threat as a way to enhance their message is not someone reason would have worked w/ anyway.

I think at most, the best you could have done--and most you should have done--was to send one email in the very beginning to say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, let's agree to disagree, and thank you for taking the time to write". After that, I would--and even advise against--saying anything else to show them it's not a conversation. Sometimes the one response is enough to say, "I recognize your existence, but I'm not going to play". After that, dead air.

Even that is not warrior-like, nor is it rife w/ wisdom. It's pretty much what I learned between dong PR work and the time I spent working in mental health (the two are not that far apart in some ways). This person did not approach you w/ any honor...no more than someone who breaks into your house instead of meeting you in battle.

I think the bottom line is still that you did the right thing. That pattern of action and responses was not normal, so you should not worry over not having acted normally. You acted appropriately, safely and decisively, and that is the way a wise warrior acts in battle.

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I have thought about this through and through and the more I read this post the more upset I get and then the sadder I get. I feel upset because there are two sides two every story and because I am being judged wrongly based on this post. At times, I feel that I do not need to apologize for my words, yet my words were hurtful and wrong.

Last night, I sat my children down and I told them what had happened. As a parent, I cannot teach my children one thing, and do something opposite, it is my duty to be a role model and raise them to be good people. I told them that a friend of mine had made me so upset, that I had said some really mean things and that I was ashamed of my actions. I never meant to be malicious; I was simply expressing my discontent and asking for answers. I stressed to my kids, that my words were never intended to be a treat, that what they were, was merely a reflection of my anger, not towards the person but towards the persons actions. I also stressed to them that violence is never the answer to any situation and that the best way to avoid any sort of confrontation in life, is to simply have clear communication. Communication is all I ever asked for.

I am walking away now, feeling like a victim of my own doing. I am no warrior, I am just a simple human being that acted out of control, and all because I was not getting the communication that I was asking for.

I am the type of person that if I feel I was treated wrongly by someone, I expect that person to acknowledge it and simply say they are sorry. Because, when I am wrong, I will say I am wrong and I will ask to be forgiven. I am a kind, forgiving, loving human being incapable of hurting anyone.

I, as an adult am taking responsibility for my words. I take what happened as a life learning experience, and am taking the proper steps to ensure that moving forward I don't allow myself to say the things I said.

I feel that Mr. Nadel acted as anyone who felt threatened should have acted, I truly believe he is a true gentleman, and do apologize to him and anyone else in his circle of friends that I may have offended with my out of character behavior.

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@JB,

Thank you for your thoughts and feedback. I think seeing your side of the story, it is even more obvious to me that had I been more direct and open earlier on and not acted out of fear, this may have all been avoided.

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Ben,
I've read both the 4 Agreements and Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and I think your awareness, even after the fact, would make either author proud. By the way, sounds like you've got an awesome library.

Daryl James

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@JB,
@BEN,

Kudos to both of you for how you both handled the issue after the fact and the reflection of the cause/effect/consequences to how things played out.

Mad respect to you both for stepping up and acting like 'big boys' at the end of the day.

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@Daryl, @Todd,

Thanks guys. I'm personally trying to kick off 2009 with a strong emphasis on self-control and self-improvement.

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I Was wondering how you are doing with:

I'm personally trying to kick off 2009 with a strong emphasis on self-control and self-improvement.

The only reason why I ask, is because I feel that this experience really thought me something. Although you have not spoken to me in quite some time now because of this, I just thought I would drop by your site and say hello, and tell you once again, how sorry I am that things turned out this way.

I feel like I lost a great friend because of this, because to me, you are quite the Extraordinary man!

Stay Well! Hopefully, one day, you will be my friend again :(

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Hey there!

I know this is totally random, but can you tell me the font you used in your pictures. The font that you use when you write "That's me" or "friend's name"

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