When something doesn’t go as planned, my first response is typically to spew the F-word (and a few select other swears) as fast as my mouth will allow. I’m not particularly proud of this fact, but haven’t been able to get the same sort of release as when I yell “Gosh!” or “Darn!”
Once I get it all out, my next step is generally to devise some sort of plan to rectify the issue NOW. A quick response was definitely beneficial when I was in law enforcement because it kept me alive. But in matters of business and relationships, more often than not, it has bit me in the ass.
Like the time a new client accused me of plagiarizing the content I had written for him. As long as I returned all of his money, he said he’d be good. When I refused to return anything until he provided proof that I had stolen someone else’s words — which I’m always extremely careful not to do because I’ve had it done to me and didn’t appreciate it — he failed to support his claim.
My response to his baseless accusations definitely made my point that I wasn’t going to be a writer he could intimidate and push around, especially when my repeated requests for proof were never fulfilled. Yet, had I given myself a bit more time to calm down before crafting my response, there’s no doubt I could have been more professional and focused more on fact than emotion.
More recently, I sent a loved one a birthday gift and didn’t get any sort of acknowledgement in return. No, “Hey, I just wanted you to know that I got what you sent” or “Thanks for the gift!” All I heard was crickets. Well, that’s not true. I didn’t even hear them.
I felt angry and hurt and a bunch of other negative emotions that made my head spin. I don’t send presents because I want someone to gush all over them and be over-the-top gracious. But I was also raised that when someone does something nice, the least you can do is thank them.
I wanted to immediately deal with the situation by telling this person how their actions (or lack thereof) had impacted me. Not even so much for me, but also because I am in a type of mother role to this person and feel like it’s my responsibility to reinforce good manners. But something stopped me and I’m glad it did because, this morning, I received a text from this person thanking me for the gift.
This reminded me that sometimes the best solution for a problem situation is to pause. To take a step back and see what happens. To give time for the scenario to play out entirely before jumping in and taking action.
It’s similar to how pausing in a conversation gives the other person room to speak while also giving you time to think. That benefits you both, enabling you to converse with a clear head. It also prevents you from saying or doing something counterproductive because you chose to act too early.
Impulsiveness may be good in life or death situations, but absent someone bleeding out on the floor in front of me, giving a moment to just “be” is sometimes all you need to see a situation play out in a better way. I will try to remember that next time and respond accordingly. Maybe even before the first F-bomb comes out.
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