The teachable moments of poop scooping

by Jason Smith

The Incident

One Sunday morning, my wife told me an alarming story. The night before, our downstairs neighbor knocked on our door. Her 7-year old son had used a rock to scratch a heart, a few circles, and his name into the hood of my Subaru Legacy. Thankfully, I had been reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, so instead of getting belligerent, I reminded myself of what I had learned:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

This was an opportunity to put these principles into practice. It would have been easy to get angry and to berate the mother for not controlling her child. Then, stress would have overtaken me as adrenalin and cortisol pulsed through my blood stream. My blood pressure would have risen. My rebuke would have caused my neighbor to resent me. Our living arrangement would no longer be peaceful.

My wife said our neighbor was very sorrowful for what had happened. To teach him responsibility, my wife suggested having the boy accompany me on my poop-scooping route. This sounded reasonable to me, so I carefully considered what I would say to my neighbor. Then, I went down stairs and knocked on her door.

“My wife told me what happened,” I told her in a friendly tone. “I really appreciate that you came up and told us.” Because of an earlier incident that happened about a year ago, I said, “When you first moved in, I know we had our differences and that was probably more on my part and not yours. My behavior was unacceptable and I apologize.”

My neighbor replied, “I appreciate that.” She explained her intent to pay for the damages.

“I appreciate that you would do that,” I said, “but I think to be fair, not knowing what it will cost, we could split the cost 50/50.” She agreed. I added, “My wife thought it might be good for your son to accompany me one day cleaning yards. That way, he could work off the damages, while I could mentor him and build rapport with him.”

She agreed and we set a date for him to accompany me in the field.

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