I was confused by an email this week. I was copied, it was not directed at me, yet the content was so acrimonious and unnecessary, I felt bad. I was in awe of the eloquent response of my colleague. Societally, we accept a sort of ratio of bad behavior allowances for founders of companies, leaders, geniuses and talent. What about the everyday people; those that aren’t particularly powerful, innovative or effective. The everyday people who are gatekeepers? They make other people miserable and yet, technically, they aren’t doing anything wrong. Sure, their communications are alienating, but to comment or raise an issue with them will drag you down to non productive pettiness.
I spoke to a therapy, peer.¹ As basic as it sounds, do people think a mean approach is acceptable or even effective? There are times to be firm, but your communications should not reflect your emotional upset.There are times when someone is obviously not paying attention when the light changes and need a quick honk of the horn to bring them into the moment. It’s a firm way to warn or to alert potential danger, like when someone is drifting into your lane. However, we’ve all experienced and probably used the horn at one time or another in frustration.
Right? No one is perfect, we all do things on occasion we wish we could edit out. But, is it out of character or a habit? You accidentally knock over a glass and break it. “Unintentionally” does not change the result; the glass is broken. Often, there is an “excuse” for poor behavior rather than an apology. The excuse is the rationale of the offender, something expected to absolve what happened rather than take responsibility. Which is why the apology is needed, an acknowledgement of bad behavior and damage. An acceptance that something was inappropriate and needs to be controlled.
Michelle Obama famously said, “when they go low, we go high.” It sounds simple, but it can be hard, because, when someone goes low, it does not feel good. Going high is often not recognized, acknowledged or rewarded. Going high takes discipline, work and practice. It’s hard, you have to take ego out of it, because you will never balance out that point system.
Which one are you? Do you have an occasional acrimonious communication, one that is uncharacteristic. Something when you apologize for, there is a comment to the effect of, “yes, that’s not how you normally are?” Or is it more of a habit that your communications reflect a bitter tone? Are you mean? Who do you want to be? This week, notice, do your communications tear down and alienate or build up and unite?
¹ Therapy Peer – work colleagues who keep you in check. They are people you can safely vent to when you need assurance you are doing the right thing. They listen and support you so you can avoid the CLRs (career limiting remarks). They listen to what you’d do if you went low and encourage you to keep going high.