When you assume the worst in people, that's exactly what you'll find.
I’d love to start this blog by writing about happiness, positivity, and optimism as we have too much rancor and hate in the world today. As I mentioned, I wish I could start this blog in that manner, but, frankly, I can’t. I can’t because I’m quite bitter and, honestly, I have been for most of the weekend. You see, late Friday afternoon, I received two eerily similar emails within 15 minutes of each other from people I have known for many years – people I know, like, and respect. Both emails essentially lambasted me for a topic on the most recent Promo UPFront Podcast (you can watch/listen here).
To provide a bit of background, the topic in question was the new Pantone color of “Period.” As you might imagine, it’s a bold red color meant to “boost the visibility of the period-positivity movement,” according to Pantone. Before recording the podcast, I asked several women – including my business partner and my wife – about the topic and if Pantone’s approach to raising awareness made sense. Not one woman I spoke with said it did, which is why I proceeded with the topic. The person I record the podcast with (Kirby Hasseman – someone who is the only male in his house) and I addressed the subject from a light-hearted marketing perspective, and we received quite a bit of praise for the episode. That is, until Friday afternoon.
The emails were informative about women’s health issues like endometriosis, miscarriages, heart issues, and how they are under-researched simply because they are related to the female body. Alternatively, the emails were also quite condescending, accusatory, preachy, and, frankly, contained overtures suggesting I was misogynistic. After each shared how disappointed they were in me, I was told I was “giggling about periods being gross,” which just flat-out isn’t accurate. It was also mentioned that I “dismissed the topic” of menstruation and other female issues, which, again, isn’t true at all. Yes, I dismissed the marketing approach to bring awareness to the problems, but not the issues themselves. As I mentioned in my response to both emails, I would have the same reaction if Pantone came out with a brownish color to bring awareness to the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men: colon cancer.
Both of the people assumed the worst of me, and that’s the real tragedy about this. We seem to live in a world where we want people to be honest, candid, and parade their individuality – until their perspectives don’t agree with our own. I’ll be turning 51 next month and I’m certainly at an age where I’m comfortable in my own skin. This means I will say (or write) what I think, fight for what I believe in, and stand up for myself when I feel I've been wronged - which is why this is my blog topic.
When you assume the worst of people – when you actively seek that out – that’s precisely what you’ll find.
I don’t particularly appreciate being put in a position of having to defend my record on issues relating to women – especially by women I like and respect. On our podcast, Kirby and I annually dedicate an episode to recognizing outstanding women in the promotional products industry and have done so for four years - including highlighting both women who sent the emails. I have been a fierce advocate of more women in leadership at every level of our industry and loudly applaud when that happens. I have mentored over a dozen women in the industry and am proud to be associated with them. I have an equal partner in brandivate that is, you guessed it, female.
Additionally, both of the emails expressly mentioned that I wasn’t in tune with menstruation issues and how it impacts reproduction and the overall health of women. Clearly, I’ve never had a period, so I don’t truly understand what that feels like and never will. But to suggest that I don’t know how menstruation impacts reproduction and health in women is 100% wrong as I’m far more knowledgeable than most realize. While my wife and I are very fortunate to have 17-year-old twin boys, they result from a third in vitro fertilization attempt after the first two failed. Oh, we tried to get pregnant the “normal” way and were successful many times. However, we suffered four miscarriages in five years and lost a baby at 22 weeks in utero. Additionally, one of those miscarriages was an ectopic pregnancy that not only destroyed Sandy’s left Fallopian Tube; it almost killed her. Most of you already know that Sandy suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in our home four years ago – an event where I had to give her CPR for six minutes while one of my boys watched me try and save her life - so I won't go into detail there.
I suppose I share all of this because those emails made me feel compelled to defend myself to the two people who assumed the worst of me. And, because that’s what they were actively seeking, they found it – even if their findings were flat out inaccurate. I was given no grace, no opportunity to have a conversation to open a dialog, nor anything constructive - just two tersely worded emails admonishing me.
I’m genuinely sorry when anyone is offended, angry, or disappointed in something I’ve said on a podcast or written in a blog. Those of you who truly know me understand the internal angst I experience when that happens. I’m not perfect by any stretch: I’m opinionated, sometimes the filter between my brain and my mouth disappears, and I have what my mother would describe as a “silver tongue.” However, this is one of those times where after much careful thought, reflection, and introspection, I am more resolute than ever that I (and Kirby) handled the conversation about the marketing of this awareness campaign very well.
To the two ladies who were disappointed by what was said and that we didn’t use the podcast as a platform to promote many women’s health issues, I’m truly sorry you felt that way. I’m choosing my words very carefully here; I’m sorry that you felt that way. I’m even more sorry you each assumed the worst in me and simply sent a harshly toned email instead of asking for a conversation – a conversation I would have gladly had (and will still gladly have). I still like and respect them both very much and my purpose with this blog is not to call them out. Rather, my goal is to use this platform - my platform - to explain to them (and any others who my have had similar thoughts) that simply assuming the worst in people is neither productive nor positive.
I did send thoughtful responses to both emails and have yet to hear back which adds an additional undertone of melencholy to the affair. As I said above, this episode doesn't sour me on these two individuals at all as I will continue to admire and respect them. I just wish in that particular moment they thought the best in me and not the worst.
I suppose the business lesson here is more of a human one: instead of assuming the worst in people when you feel disappointed in them, look for the best and ask for clarification. They may still disappoint you, but the resulting conversation will be far more productive than an accusatory email.