I recently had a text conversation in which I immediately got offended. Truth be known, I was wrong and the reason I was offended was because I was mad at myself, and I was taking it out on the person I wronged.
This happens to all of us, as Joan explains. She never claims innocence on these things, which is why her advice is so interesting.
Joan: Does this sound familiar? You’re having a particularly stressful day and someone does something that you perceive to go against your belief or what you are trying to accomplish. Rather than finding out the facts or taking time to cool off, you immediately pick up the phone and call the person or compose a less than friendly email. Then, minutes after your knee-jerk reaction, you are full of regret and wonder how you are going to rectify the situation.
Q. Are we all more edgy or is it just easier to go off on someone because there are so many ways to do it (social media)?
Joan: Well, we’ve all been there. In the not too distant past, I was probably one of the most impetuous people you will ever meet. I had to address every situation in a flash, usually without much thought to the facts or the consequences. I was an emotionally charged individual.
Q. There are so many of us who get offended so quickly. How did you deal with this?
Joan: I like to believe that I am becoming finer with age, just like wine, but the reality is that it took many knock downs for me to finally learn the lesson. Situations don’t have to be addressed immediately. It is OK to take time to review the facts, analyze what happened, and to breathe, calm down and think rationally. No good decision is ever reached during a highly emotional state.
Q. Have you dealt with this recently?
Joan: Yes. I was recently the recipient of a ‘fly off the handle without thought’ response from a professional associate, and I can tell you, the person that dished it out, not only did not get her point across, but I now perceive her as extremely unprofessional and someone with whom I will have a limited working relationship.
Q. This is cringe-worthy, mostly because there are few people who can say they haven’t done such a thing. How do we deal with such a horrifying moment?
Joan: Any impulsive reaction usually, at some point, requires a cleanup action, when you must apologize and try to repair the damage. In some cases, the wounds are too deep.
Q. What do we avoid such interactions?
Joan: My advice? Practice patience. Create a plan for these types of situations. Try taking a walk around the block a few times to cool off. Call a friend. Write a note or email and then trash it. Think before you speak. Assess the situation to gain clarity. Get the facts.
It’s not always easy but remember there is no point to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Learn to keep the door shut before the horse gets out; it will lessen the amount of manure that must be cleaned up later.