Address the Uncomfortable

I stood frozen and confused looking at the marathon-long text I was sent in the middle of my son’s flag football practice.

I was being accused of taking a cruel shot at someone in a business meeting back when we were colleagues. It had been one of the worst days of her professional career, she said. And she needed to get it off her chest.

At the time of this text, it had been years since I had been in a meeting with this person. 

I read the whole text and it shared specifically what she heard me say and that I called her the name of a TV character that was uneducated. She was further appalled that everyone in the room burst out laughing.

It then went on to say some nice things about me and that she wished me the best.

In disbelief, I showed Jessica (my wife) the text, and she Googled the character’s name. Neither of us knew who it was. You see, the name of the character she thought I called her was one I had never heard of, from a show I had never seen. 

Now, it’s very possible, I replied to her text, that I made some jovial comment in this meeting. In fact, it was a fun team and frequently we laughed together and lightened the mood a bit joking around together. Never though, were there malicious comments from a place of negativity towards someone. Ever. 

Speak Now

Her advice to me at the end was to always be kind and courteous and to ask God for discernment with my words.

I believe this is great advice!

I gave her some advice, too: If someone offends you or you feel you were wronged in some way, say something to the person. Soon. 

I could have cleared this up in 30 seconds flat if she had, as I would have at the time known exactly what I really said and solved it right away. Even though this was years later, I still racked my brain to try and put myself back in that room to see if I could come up with anything.

So, for years this person was carrying this load, based on something I didn’t say, thinking I had with mal intent caused the “worst day of her professional career”. Meanwhile, life goes on and I am clueless that I had caused someone this emotional pain. To her credit, she brought it up eventually with this text. Some never do. I also offered to have a voice conversation to further address this. 

This happened a while back now, but it came up for me again recently with another story that a friend told me. This friend had inadvertently offended an acquaintance, had zero knowledge of it, and then instead of a conversation got the cold shoulder from the person for months. Finally, my friend had had enough and called it to the mat. Guess what? Resolved in 5 minutes. A simple miscommunication.

Have you ever been ghosted by someone? I have. It’s not fun.

What are we doing? Have a talk and figure it out!

I think so much trouble in life can be resolved with better communication. That goes for me too, by the way. There’s some stuff I’ve carried around I could do a better job with. This is an ongoing challenge because it requires both courage and vulnerability. What a combination!

Be Slow to Offense

One of my coaching clients heard from a homeowner that another real estate agent was saying untrue things about them “Hit it head-on.” I replied, go straight to the source and clear the air. If it isn’t true, you can let it go. And if it is, now there is less of a chance it will ever happen again.

When navigating challenges with businesses I’ve led or consulted, so much can be resolved by face-to-face adult communication, where two (or more) people look to understand each other’s perspectives and resolve differences. Otherwise, stuff festers and that’s when things can erupt and totally unnecessary drama and deeper hurt happen. Talk to the person. Or to a manager if you are uncomfortable or there is a repeat offense.

Now, we all have different tolerance for things that may or may not offend us. Remember the blog from a couple of months back about my stepfather and how he lived life according to the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? Two of the agreements were “Don’t make assumptions” and “Don’t take anything personally.” These seem super-relevant here. But even if that is too much of an ask, let’s try and communicate better with each other so we can lighten our own load along the way. Here are some thoughts:

  1. If you are often offended, maybe do some inner work and figure out why that is, time is precious and I would like for you to live in less angst about what other people say or do. We have no control over these things.
  2. If there is reason to be offended, say something or do something about it sooner than later. Going to the source is always best if it is safe to do so. Often, there may have been a miscommunication. Or, you give someone a chance to apologize, make amends, and learn from it.
  3. And, here’s a strategy. Instead of going at it guns blazing and putting someone on the defensive, ask a few questions first. “Did you say….” “Did you mean to….” “I heard ……., is that true?” “Do you think we could discuss……” “I was hoping to share how (this thing you did) affected me.”
  4. If your information is hearsay, do the work to find out both sides of the story before passing judgment and addressing the issue. This is especially true in leadership and management – I’ve seen many cases where people hear a side of a story and immediately fire off the email or make the call before getting the full picture.

Stephen Covey said it best. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

And, if you address the offense and forgiveness is an issue for you, our blog or webinar on the topic may be of assistance.

Is there a call you should make? I bet there is. Me too. When will you do it?  And, imagine what it might do to lessen your burden. Imagine how much better off we would all be if we all got just a little better at communicating with each other.

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