Choosing Non-Defensive Communication at the Copy Store

I went to the copy store one afternoon to pick up booklets for an event I was putting on the next morning. When I checked over the order I discovered that EVERY OTHER page had been printed. The booklets had been collated, covers added, then stapled together but all of the even numbered pages were missing! After bringing this to the clerk’s attention, we discussed what to do to rectify the situation. She agreed to re-copy the pages immediately while I removed all of the covers and re-attached them to the newly re-copied pages. Only by working together immediately could the job be completed before the copy store closed for the day. We set to work on our respective jobs and all was going well until she made a remark to me. She said, “I’ve re-formated your originals on separate sheets so I won’t have to slap you next time.” It was said in a joking, familiar way but I also heard the message that she blamed me for the fact that only the odd numbered pages were copied. I knew that when I placed the order I had shown her the pages were printed back-to-back and explained that I wanted the copies to come out the same way. When I heard her remark I felt resentful and irritated, especially because I had pitched right in to solve the problem and had not expressed any blame. But I told myself, “Oh forget it. It’s not a big deal.” My negative feelings rose up again but I tried to ignore them by reminding myself that we were almost done…it’s ok. My annoyance returned. Remembering my Powerful Non Defensive Communication skills I thought, “What is the question I want to ask her? What do I want to know from her? What question can I ask with genuine curiosity?” I asked her (remembering to keep a neutral tone and lower my voice at the end) “Do you believe I miscommunicated when I gave you my order?” She said, “No, no,no! I see what went wrong. I pushed the wrong button on the copy machine. I’m used to the originals being on single sheets and I didn’t think to allow for yours being printed back-to-back already.” My resentment and irritation evaporated. I felt friendly and calm. I told her how much I appreciated her willingness to fix the problem right away so I could have my booklets in time for my workshop. We parted on friendly terms. My old pattern would have been to say nothing and continue to feel resentful and irritated and in addition, start blaming the clerk for my feelings. Instead, I left feeling fine and I believe the clerk did too.