As you can imagine, over the course of my career, I have fired off my fair share of angry letters and e-mails.   Yet, I can’t think of one single time when these communications had a positive effect.  Typically, they served only to escalate the conflict.

Not long ago, a friend sent me an email that hurt my feelings. I tried to talk with him about it but to no avail.  He felt justified in his actions and the words hung in cyberspace.  Sometimes I wonder if he wished he hadn’t sent the email in the first place — I certainly wished he hadn’t.

Last week, I sent an email that was based in frustration. Later, I went back to re-read the email.  Yikes!  My email was so out of proportion to how I was feeling – just 24 hours later.  I quickly apologized to the recipient about how off I had been.

This is life.

In any relationship, you’re going to experience times when you feel angry. It happens at home, at work and with friends.  In the age of technology, we often take the easy way out and send an email or text.  The problem is eventually our frustration lessens, yet the cyber-doc is still out there.

Here’s something cool: We have the ability to choose how we respond when we’re angry.

Let’s be honest: little things always look much bigger the closer you are to them.  Knee jerk reactions are never good.  There’s no question that holding off on showing your frustration can make a world of difference – clearly something to work on!  🙂

So, next time I want to send one of those emails with my unbridled frustrations, I  need to ask myself:

  • What am I really trying to accomplish here?  To prove I’m right – Don’t do it.
  • Have I done my homework?  I might be right but I might also be wrong.  Is there really a right and wrong?
  • What did I do to contribute to this outcome? Seriously important question – and be honest.
  • Can we meet in person? It’s easy to hurl digital spears without the risk of a live encounter. But confronting (talking) in person takes real guts and can add the opportunity for real solutions.
  • Have I spilled my guts on paper?  If not, do so (its cathartic) and then save the draft.  Looking at it the next day will help you see those angry or hurt feelings more rationally.
  • Have I admitted my mistakes — my role in the whole freaking thing? This is critical.

We live in a world with people.  And sometimes these people are going to disappoint and frustrate us.  Sending an e-mail or text is almost never effective or helpful in solving a problem.   However, waiting and having a face-to-face (non-confrontational) discussion can result in a beautifully productive solution  — or at least the chance of one!

Have a great start to your week!