Friends, sewists, quiltmakers, lend me your ears!
The last few weeks of political upheaval in the United States has definitely shortened a lot of fuses, and sadly, it’s bleeding out in how we’re treating our fellow people.
My colleagues and I in the quilting industry have seen a notable uptick in the hostility of emails coming our way, and I want to appeal to everyone to just take a moment, and BREATHE.
Take a big, deep, breath, and a nice, slow exhale. *
And one more for luck… BREATHE.
There we go.
I’d like to tell you a wee bedtime story about the life of a small business owner in the quilt world. We are entrepreneurs and solo-preneurs, which means we get to choose which 18 hours of the day we’re going to work. For the most part, we wear all the hats, or at least all except the ones we can afford to hire out, and in quilting, the profits at our end of the food chain are modest enough that hiring out hats is a financial challenge. To say we are stretched thin is a king-sized (with hand-appliqued scalloped borders) understatement.
So when we get an email demanding that we do something RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, it’s hard to take. And considering we’re talking SEWING here, not a hold-up or a hostage situation, perhaps it’s a bit over the top.
First of all, please don’t start at DEFCON 3. It doesn’t leave us much room to solve the issue. You are welcome to be upset about something, and certainly welcome to let us know you want a different outcome from the one you’re getting, but starting at a heightened level of escalation, and then threatening me, is not likely to endear me to your cause. My most recent example of this was someone who wrote to tell me they didn’t like the roll-over newsletter sign-up thingy on my site. I appreciate that she wrote, and as it happened, it’s not working correctly so I have batted it over to my website guru (at $75 an hour) to sort out.
But at the end of the email, whose subject line was “Shame”, the writer closed with “Very annoying. I won’t buy any more of your patterns.”
I’d clutch my pearls if I actually owned any. No doubt this Lady of Perpetual Discontent righteously believes herself to be a genteel woman, sending me some shame.
Bless her heart.
This is not the first communication I’ve had in the last few weeks that resembles the short, barking tweet style of the current commander-in-chief, and I can’t say I think it’s a pretty thing for us to be modeling. Quilting is primarily built on the shoulders of kind women, helping other kind women to do kind things with needle and thread. I believe we are handily capable of rising above barking tweets at each other.
I think we might be forgetting that there’s a living, breathing human on the other end, who is actually doing her level best to do a good job. Emphasis on HUMAN. Which means we goof stuff up sometimes, and that stuff breaks sometimes, and that life gets terribly in the way sometimes. It means that it might take an email from you to let us know this thingy was broken because we don’t spend hours of our day looking for wiggles in our websites. The chances are we leave a periodic cookie offering to the internet angels, and the rest of the time cross our fingers fervently that it doesn’t all go haywire at a desperately inopportune moment. And even then, that doesn’t always work – I’m writing this to you from a coffee shop, slogging through my 8th day without internet service in my studio, and I bake a helluva lot of shortbread for people.
I do care that this thingy isn’t working properly, and I do care that my customer let me know she was having a tough time of it. But really… shame and a threat?
May I point out that we’re offering PATTERNS and FABRICS, not cures for cancer (if only a quilt could!) and that all this anxiety-laden urgency is just not useful. Truly, operating at that level is going to rust your insides, blow up your heart, and give you unattractive frown lines. Take it from the heart attack survivor here that it’s just not worth it. It gets up the hackles of the people you need on your side, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is far from her best when put on the defensive.
So please… BREATHE for a moment before you hit that keyboard. Perhaps even brew a cuppa** and think through your words before you type. Give us a chance to help you out before loading up your weapons, OK? We really DO care about you – why else would we be doing this?
Oh, and for those of you who send kind emails and attagirls… you cheer captains keep us going with your kindness, and it absolutely makes our days to receive your sweet missives. Keep ’em coming! THANK YOU!
* My favorite phone app for breathing is CALM
** I was drinking Tazo Zen while I wrote this. Hey, I can hear you laughing!!
My favorite version of Try A Little Tenderness is this one, by The Commitments.