Dear Fabulous Readers,
As many of us take the time to reflect on the past year, Ms. Specs has been reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the inception of this column.

It started over two years ago at the Opticians Association of America’s Leadership meeting in February 2019. During a conversation with 20/20’s Deborah Kotob about the state of opticianry, we talked about the apparent decline of positivity and manners, especially on optical social media. That conversation turned into the creation of this column. We envisioned this to be an interactive advice column like “Dear Abby.” We decided our version would be “Dear Ms. Specs in the City.” My inspiration for this is the book, Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin. Originally published in 1982, it is amazing how topics of manners from the past are still relevant today. So, Dear Readers, I went back to her book for more inspiration, and as it turns out, she wrote a chapter on “Work.” An excerpt from the chapter, “When Things Go Wrong” in her words:

“The mental health industry in this country, also known as the Feel-Good Business, has put a massive effort into reducing the Gross National Guilt. But in so doing, it has only increased the distressing amount of unresolved blame that is going around. Nobody is taking any blame for anything any longer. The new battle cry is, ‘It’s not my fault.’”

Judith Martin/Ms. Manners believes that if each of us were to accept graciously a small portion of blame, it wouldn’t all be hanging out there, clogging up the air. This made Ms. Specs pause for thought. What should we do when a patient blames us for something that is not our fault? This made me ponder… in what circumstances can I graciously take part of the blame, even for something that was not my fault, in hopes of spreading kindness and good cheer?

It reminded me of an example I experienced with a client who purchased several high-end expensive eyewear pairs. At the time, this luxury frame collection was known for putting too much gold in the screws, causing them to fall out. They have since corrected this problem. So, I ask you: Is it our fault if a screw falls out? Ms. Specs would give this a resounding “NO!” Now let me ask you this: Should we apologize when a screw falls out? I think yes, and here is why.

Once a loyal client came in to let me know that the screw fell out of his frame, causing the lens to fall out during work. Well, no big deal, one might think, simply replace the screw and get on with the day. But there is another piece of information to consider: The client’s occupation and work environment. As it turned out, he is a pediatric heart surgeon, and this happened during surgery! Should I have apologized for this? Yes, I did so immediately, and the conversation went like this:

“Dr. Fabulous, I am so sorry that happened to you. I will replace the screw immediately and add lock-tight to prevent it from happening again. Please be sure to come to see me every few months so I may give your eyewear a ‘tune-up’ to keep it in tip-top shape.” Emotions calmed immediately. It was worth apologizing for something that was not my fault.

Do you have situations of a potential conflict that you remedied with kindness and even an apology for something that was not your fault? Ms. Specs would love to hear about it, and we can all collectively learn from each other.

Until then, keep being the optical rock stars that you are, even when things go wrong at work.

Do you have a question for Ms. Specs? Please send your question to [email protected], and we may feature it in a future column.