Have you ever received one of those e-mails where you could feel your emotions rising in response to the note and then you said to yourself “that’s just not right, I’ve got to set them straight.” Your emotion might even rise in proportion to the number of recipients on the e-mail. The more people who received the misperceptions and misstatements by the author of the original note will generally lead to a greater desire in your mind to “reply to all” so everyone knows ” the truth.” So with this emotional reaction brewing in the background, you set out typing your note to prove your point.
For those of you who use e-mail to communicate a lot, you’ve probably been here. You have probably even hit the send button a few times. If you have, then like me, you’ve experienced that this often leads to disagreements, hurt feelings, and a lot of time trying to smooth things over. Working in management for many years, I’ve had to step into and help resolve quite a few staff disputes that could’ve been avoided if only the send button had not been hit.
Here’s some quick advice if you ever find yourself in the situation… don’t reply right away…. Sit on it for at least a day if you can… if you need to type your thoughts out to process your feelings, save the note in a draft and don’t send it… hopefully after the emotions subside and you get a little time and distance from the original note, you will realize that sending an emotionally charged “reply to all” note would not be the best course of action…. If you still feel any emotion around the issue coupled with a continued need to reply, then I suggest you talk to the person rather than use e-mail. Best of all is when you can see the situation in a new light and let go of the need to be right.
I had this situation come up recently… the specifics are unimportant… other than I could recognize that behind the words of the other person was a desire in their mind to be right… it was one of those backhanded compliments where they should have stopped with the complement, but felt compelled to add a few extra words which unfortunately only served to undermine the complement. I immediately felt an emotional reaction and begin typing a reply. Over the next few minutes, my reply melted from a caustic “reply to all” missile to a slightly less negative reply back only to the author to my ultimate action of canceling the note altogether. I came to see that setting this other person right was truly unimportant.
Why the change? In the back of my mind I kept hearing Wayne Dyer’s quote “when given the choice between being right and being kind, always choose being kind.” The more I could step back and witness the unfolding of these events, the more I realized that in the big scheme of things my “correcting” this other person was more about me than it was about them. It usually is.
We all battle these moments when we feel the internal desire to prove that we right and someone else is wrong. Most often this occurs in conversations. It’s harder to take a timeout when you’re talking with someone face-to-face than it is in e-mail communications. Yet it is truly helpful to recognize when any emotional reactions may be arising and to pause before replying. Try seeing if there is something inside you saying you need to “defend yourself” and “prove you are right.” If you can build a slight gap in these moments, then you stand a better chance of choosing a kind reply rather than reacting emotionally. Ultimately you may even build the skill of being able to let go of the attachment to be right in those moments.
I can hear some of you right now saying “but I am right and they are wrong, and I need to correct them.” Maybe. Sometimes. It’s been my experience that more often than not our desire to be right at the expense of another is motivated by factors such as low self-esteem. What are we afraid of if we simply let the issue go? Are we concerned about the judgments of others? Are we concerned about our judgment of ourselves? Why? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you simply let it go? These are questions worth pondering. I know it’s scary that you might discover some hidden aspect of yourself that might need healing.
To be clear, I’m not saying you need to give in on every conflict, nor to not have healthy boundaries. There are times when we do need to stand up for our position. I’m simply asking you to stop and weigh your motives. What is the real intention in your reply? In the big picture of life, how important is it in this situation to be right?
The more energy we give to conflicts, the more conflicts grow in our life. The more energy we give to love and kindness, the more love and kindness we grow in our life. Every day, each of us have a choice in our sphere of influence to decide if we want to bring more conflict or more love, to be right at the expense of another or to be kind. Every day in these choices whether we realize it or not, we are contributing to the future of the planet. When we choose love and kindness in our lives, we are growing love and kindness on the planet.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!