Last week I wrote a store owner at which I have some instruments on consignment, asking if he would consider taking a 20% commission instead of his usual 25%. Here is his response:
Unfortunately - I am unable to deviate from the 25% commission, as all instruments on consignment are subject to this rate - In the interest of fairness to other sellers we cannot make adjustments.
What irks me is not the percentage, although I think 25% is too greedy, nor the curious idea that equality corresponds to fairness. What gets me is the way he abdicates responsibility for his decision, claiming, “I am unable...” and “we cannot....”
I call these people ‘accountably challenged’. They haven’t the gumption to take responsibility for their decisions. And isn't that “we” part a nice touch? Spread the focus so, like watching a gaggle of geese taking off in an explosion of flapping and honking, you don’t know which one to aim at.
I sometimes think not owning our behaviour is THE main dysfunctionality of our culture. Prisons are filled with people who will tell you it wasn't their fault… couldn't help it... had no choice.... We are a self-victimizing society.
I’ll never forget years ago when Washington DC mayor Marion Barry was asked why he lied to the press about being hooked on cocaine. His reply: "That was the disease talking. I didn't purposely lie to you. I was a victim." Yes... a victim of his own mouth.
And what about me? How often does the “I can’t” syndrome creep into my own interactions? “I can’t go to the movies with you. I have to study.” “I can’t afford to buy that shirt.” The truth is I make choices. I choose to study rather than go out. My priority is to buy something other than that shirt with my money.
I notice that paying attention to my language helps me identify my attitudes, my needs. So these days I’m paying particular attention to “I can't.” It helps me identify when I’m avoiding and why.
And I’m looking at alternatives. “Come to the movies with me?” “No thank you. I plan to study.”
On the other hand I’ll forgive Flip Wilson, prancing on stage in outrageously garish drag, and defiantly proclaiming, “The devil made me buy this dress.” You go gal.