Thursday, May 28, 2009

Never say Never

I was corresponding with a caregiver about a case where someone had complained about (what else?) some cats.

One of the things she mentioned in her email, was about how it was highly unlikely that the cats were the perpetrators in this case, because so far, there had never been a case of it even in the West.

I mention this, not to embarrass her but because I notice this is something that does happen quite often in mediations.

Now I understand of course that people want to protect the cats, and so sometimes we tend to get defensive. When we see a case that seems to be nonsense, our first response is to say it is rubbish. Chances are, it may well be, but a few rules to note.

One, don't make a generalisation - or "Never say Never". Never say a cat will 'never' attack, or that a cat 'never scratches a car'. You never (pun intended) know. For example, a cat GENERALLY would not attack - but what if it is protecting kittens? There are usually exceptions to any rule. It takes nothing away from your statement to say it is 'highly unlikely'. If it is an anomaly then you can investigate and see why that has happened.

On the other hand, if the complainant can just pull out ONE case where it HAS happened, then at best, your integrity is shot. You are seen to be biased or that worse, you know nothing about cats. At worst, the complainant may think you just outright lied.

Two, a statement such as 'it doesn't happen in the West', or 'no one in Singapore has ever heard of it' is not a great first line of defence.

Let me give an analogy. A few years ago, everyone in my family came down with food poisoning after eating a meal we bought from a restaurant. We had not eaten any meals together for the preceding two days or so, except this one. We called the restaurant as we didn't want anyone else to get sick. What was their response? That it couldn't be true because they had 'never' had a case like this before. Does one statement follow the other? Of course not - just because it's never happened before doesn't mean it won't ever happen. I would have been much happier if the restaurant had said they'd look into it and got back to us. Needless to say we never ate there again.

Also bear in mind, a complainant does not care whether this has or has not happened to someone else, somewhere else. What the complainant cares about is whether this is going to happen to him or her. So you should try and deal directly with their concerns.

Instead, it is better to explain WHY the situation you're dealing with (cats attacking, cats scratching cars) is unlikely to happen. You can then add that you've not heard of any such cases yourself, or in your reading. This backs up what you say, but isn't the main crux of your argument.

If the complainant is shown to be exaggerating, then your own calm, logical statements will be an even starker contrast to what they are saying. That will show, at least to the TC, if not to the complainant, that you are the reasonable person in this case.


Greta Anita Lint said...

Regarding food poisoning --- the premiere online resource is Once you've been sick, you're more susceptible to having to worship the throne again. I bookmarked this site!

Dawn said...


yskat said...

Re Dawn's comments on "it never happens", perhaps a caregiver can say what most large corporations say when something unusual happens with their products or services: it is an isolated incident :)

Dawn said...

good one :)

Mary said...

yes good one indeed. will keep that verse in mind :)