Perhaps one of the most challenging things that we all face in our life is the emotional ups and downs associated with negative comments and situations created by other people. All of us, at some point have had someone say something to us or something happen where the initial reaction was anger. We have all also had times when our reactions to those situations made the problems even worse. Unfortunately, because we are human with emotions, we often let those emotions get the best of us, and often, what we do in the moment of high emotions creates more problems.
Fortunately, I have always had a reasonably level-head, and even though I do react in anger at times, more often, I take most things in stride, and analyze before I react. The older I get, the more level-headed I have become. But I have made the mistake of reacting instantly often enough to have learned some tough lessons.
The one thing I learned a long time ago, is if I choose to react when I’m angry, the result is almost always bad. Allowing a bit of time to pass between the initial negative input and your response is ALWAYS a good idea.
In this world of emailing, texting, and instant messaging, we have become a society that tends to type our comments into an electronic device instead of speaking to others. The damage to our society is an entirely different topic that we can address another day. But it is a fact that when it comes to negative correspondence, the written word using electronic devices almost always makes things far worse.
Even though I tend to be more of a verbal person, and prefer human interactions over electronic correspondence, I have fallen into the trap of digital communication just like almost everyone else. It is bad enough to respond to someone who has upset you before you have had time to consider your words and process the situation. However, it is almost always catastrophic to put that response in writing instead of speaking to the person. Written communication, especially in adverse situations, is almost always misunderstood. It almost always makes a situation worse.
All that being said, I have found the following strategy to be very useful in managing situations where emotions are high.
First, never, never, never, instantly respond to something that upset you in any way. I have found that sleeping on the situation and waiting until the next day to answer almost always results in a better outcome.
Second, if possible, deal with the situation either in-person or by phone. When you’re talking to someone, you can judge their attitude and inflection much easier than you can by reading the written word. You can adjust your comments accordingly to try to work things out in a positive way. Plus, people rarely get the correct meaning out of written comments. They skip words unintentionally, which usually causes them to misunderstand. Or they skim through it and take from it what they want instead of what is said. They do the same thing when you talk to them. But at least when you are talking, you can instantly see if they have misunderstood your comments and adjust on the spot.
If you must respond in writing, do not send the message before you have slept on it. I typically write a lengthy commentary, getting out all points that I think are important, and then I DON’T SEND it. I wait until the next day, or maybe even a couple of days, until the emotions have settled a bit, and I can evaluate the situation more rationally. In 100% of the cases, I either don’t send my message at all or modify it dramatically.
I also usually try to get some input from someone else who is not emotionally involved to see if they think I am reading the situation correctly.
Emotional reactions almost always cause more problems. Rational responses, will almost always result in a better outcome. To go from emotional to rational, give yourself a chilling period and you will find you end up with much better outcomes.