Stuff happens. You can't always be perfect, and people don't
expect you to be, but when something goes wrong you have a great
opportunity to learn a number of interesting things about people
in general and yourself in particular, as well as how to handle
such situations. As an example, here's something that recently
happened to me.
I have a free newsletter that I send by email. When someone
signs up for it at my website, I send them a "Welcome" message
to thank them for subscribing and to send them the most recent
issue. Last week I accidentally sent this "Welcome" message to
my entire list of over 2500 existing subscribers in 20+
I realized what had happened within 5 minutes, and immediately
sent a message to the entire list (on purpose this time!) to
apologize and not to worry; they were not on the list twice and
would not be receiving duplicate newsletters in the future. The
reaction was immediate and surprising, to say the least. One of
the first to respond told me that he never subscribed (remember,
this message was thanking people for subscribing), that I better
not charge him for it or he will report me to the FBI (!), and
that I was a "stinking con-artist". What made this especially
interesting is that this particular individual has been
receiving my newsletter every other week for over a year!!!
Several others told me that they never subscribed and to remove
them from the list. Again, all of them had, in fact, subscribed
and had been receiving the newsletter for many months. (I have
never nor would I ever send the newsletter to anyone who hadn't
specifically requested it.)
Then there were the "faithful"; the many nice people who sent a
quick note such as "Don't worry about it", "You're spending too
much time in your bathrobe", and "It's always nice to hear from
you, even if by mistake".
Here are some things that I learned:
1. You can't please everyone, no matter what you do. Some people
are just cranky, so you have to just let them be cranky! Nothing
you say or do will placate them.
2. Sometimes you just have to let go. At first I tried to tell
those who complained that they had been on the list for months,
but then realized that if these people don't even realize that
there is no sense trying to hold on to them. They obviously
don't need the newsletter or read it. "Buh- bye"!
3. I've got to lighten-up on myself. Even though the negative
messages amounted to less than 1/2 of one percent, and they were
outnumbered by positive messages by at least 4 to 1, I still
found myself focusing on them and feeling bad about it.
4. When something goes wrong, it is important to try to identify
ALL of the ramifications. It never occurred to me that people
would see the "Welcome" message and think they were subscribed
to something new. If I had thought of that, I would have
mentioned it in my follow-up message and perhaps fended off a
few of the requests to get off of the list. (Maybe not... see #1
The next time something goes wrong, think it through calmly
before you take action. Then let the chips fall where they may
and look at the entire situation as a learning opportunity. If
you don't, it just might happen again.