The Knee-Jerk Reaction

IMG_0322You’ve heard that phrase before, right? “Knee-jerk reaction?” I had one of those this morning.

I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like the weight of the world is really on my shoulders lately. I can explain some of it, and other parts I can’t, but I won’t right now.

Here’s what happened, though. At our dojo, payments are due on the first of the month for that calendar month. We don’t run on contracts. I mail invoices around the middle of the month before to remind my students that their payments will be due soon. No big deal.

So, I mailed out March invoices and sometimes they go out to people who have been absent. Sometimes they’re in again and sometimes they’re not coming back. Regardless, if you don’t come in for March classes, you don’t have to pay for March.

Today I got a letter in the mail from a newer student. He signed up for classes, took a few lessons, and disappeared. I mailed the March invoices in the middle of February, actually left him a voicemail to see if he was OK at a later date, and never heard from him. 

But today I got this letter.

The letter was full of angst over the invoice I had sent him. He said he wasn’t coming back (for a personal family reason we already knew about). But then he went on to quote the monthly due date versus the date on the invoice versus the day he got the invoice; and then he went on to quote the terms on our paperwork and how he didn’t sign a contract, reiterating over and over that he does not owe us any money.

Of course you don’t. You haven’t been in; you don’t have to pay.

Apparently, though, he interpreted the receipt of an invoice for the coming month as an indication that he had not paid us something he owed, which it was not. He even told me in his letter that he was giving a copy of the (handwritten) letter to his lawyer for his protection.


But my immediate response? First, I felt defensive. Why did this guy feel the need to bring up a lawyer? WTF just happened?

Second, I felt like I had somehow wronged the guy. Maybe I didn’t explain to him that bills are reminders. It’s my fault. I wasn’t clear enough. I didn’t do enough, or communicate clearly enough – and as a result, I made him feel like he had done something wrong. But he didn’t, and neither did I.

Finally, my brain slowed down enough for me to think. This guy is obviously under a ton of pressure (ie. aforementioned personal situation that I already know about). Perhaps that pressure caused him to panic a bit, and this letter was his own knee-jerk reaction.

Then I settled on the right idea. We’re mailing him a card. A simple, “we’re thinking of you and hope you’re alright,” sort of card. A peace offering of sorts. Yes, we’re all on the same page. Yes, we understand. No, there are no problems here.

I want to say that people are nuts, but that’s not always fair. People are hooking and swinging and trying to survive, just like I am. And I’m sure some of you think I’m nuts from time to time, too. So be it.




  1. Hi Deborah, your post is a great reminder of why our first reaction may not be the best and that people have their own reasons for doing what they do which don’t necessarily reflect our own values or expectations. I’m dropping in from the A to Z April Blogging Challenge to wish you the best for April.

    Judy –

  2. Sounds like he overreacted. But at least you did not retaliate which is good as some of us might have.

Speak Your Mind