It’s not a matter of principle

Yesterday I was getting some numbers ready for my accountant. I was looking up our bills from Time Warner for internet over the last year. I’ve gone through quite the rigmarole this last year with swapping out cable modems, probably 6 times, so there’s a baseline level of frustration just thinking about internet access. In looking at our bill history I noticed that it went up $10 bucks earlier this year. I was immediately incensed when I saw the reason.

Whenever our cable modem would have issues, they would bring out a new one. And, apparently some of the new modems cost more per month to rent than the prior one. I was also a bit upset because the last time we had a problem the agent offered to give us a discount, though that discount didn’t offset the increases we’ve had from modem switches over the course of the year, so I felt an affront.

Let’s just sum this up with not being happy with all the days of no internet and waiting to get a new modem yet again. Clearly it’s been something that frustrated me over the course of the year.

Anyways, in this moment I was enraged that they would raise our rate only then to offer us a discount. Fortunately, I caught my anger and I took a moment to think about the situation and how silly it was to be so upset over probably $5 extra per month. I could call up customer service and wait an hour to get this changed, but that’s likely an enormous waste of my time.

Within a matter of seconds of thinking how silly the frustration was, I was once again calm and carrying on with my day.

The phrase “it’s a matter of principle” would have propelled me in the past to immediately demand this egregious situation be reconciled. I would’ve wasted an hour biting someone’s head off that had nothing to do with the problem.

In fact, upon reflection, likely a computer system automatically changed our bill based on the modem. And, likely, the people that coded up that computer system didn’t intend for us to be charged more for a modem when we had trouble with the last one. I doubt that’s even something that would come up in a software planning meeting. Truly, nobody was out to get us, no matter how much I felt that way. I’m just glad I didn’t act on it and make my day, and someone else’s, worse.

There’s really no such thing as a matter of principle. When seemingly bad things happen, the last thing we want to do is to act without considering the context. There’s always something we’re not aware of in any situation–in many situations there are many things we’re not aware of. So, in a bad situation, we can seek these things and we might be surprised how differently we feel.

For example in this situation, realizing a lack of motive vaporized my anger. Further, realizing how inconsequential $5 is to me, really helped de-escalate the situation. Even if the $5 is worth calling customer service, I’d rather do that with a calm spirit.

So, when bad things happen, it’s not a matter of principle. And most of the time, if you look carefully, you’ll realize your principle doesn’t even apply.