Talking with a client today, we got on to the difficulties of keeping your cool in a job you hate. My client had gotten herself involved in a bit of tit for tat email tennis which had gone on to ruin her entire week. She had already forwarded me the 7 page email thread to get my opinion, and can you guess what I thought of it...?
I don't know if you've ever found yourself here but, the fact is, when an instruction is sent in writing, your biased little mind insists on assuming it's come from a place of negativity. When I looked at the email, because it wasn't directed at me, I couldn't see anything wrong with it. It seemed like a reasonable enough request for some work to be done and a query over a previous communication. My client on the other hand, when sat talking to me, recited it with a hugely irritated tone in her voice, as she interpreted the way that she believed her boss had intended it.
Now, I could say she's over-reacting (and to be fair, she probably is) but the point is I've been here myself, in exactly the same position, and I'm willing to bet that many of you have too. It may be that you've been there and aren't even aware of it because, when you're frustrated in yourself, it is all to easy to assume that everyone is coming from a place of frustration too. Your mind, from centuries of evolution and decades of conditioning, is already more tuned in to the bad than the good so, is it any wonder that you automatically think the worst. You then reply with what you deem to be an equally aggressive response, which will then most likely be received and interpreted even more negatively than you intend it. Before you know it, you've fallen into the angry email trap...
With my client, all it took was for me to read the email back to her, but without the emotion in my tone that she was attaching to it. It was a complete lightbulb moment as she realised that she'd likely made some improbable assumptions and she wound up feeling a bit embarrassed about it.
The point is, we all fall into this or similar traps at certain times - have you ever received a text from your partner and been prepared to murder him only to find that the intention was nothing like you'd assumed? So, do yourself a favour. Avoid the trap. If you receive something that makes you question the motivation, assume the best. Read it with a smile on your face and a cheery tone. If you're still uncomfortable with it, go and have a chat to clarify the task with your boss or colleague and to gauge their intention, with the benefit of body language and other verbal cues. You may just find that you've gotten the wrong end of the stick...
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