Wednesday, 6 August 2014

No Mouth Guard Required - 5 Keys to choosing the right words.

"Many things are opened by mistake, but none so frequently as the mouth" (unknown) 

I don't know about you but I am a great reactor - I could substitute for a radioactive core  in a Nuclear power plant most days.  Last Friday, I don't know what was happening in the universe  but, my world was certainly throwing some curved balls my way.  It was a day where I had the opportunity to grow or to carry on reacting to the actions and words of others.  So I decided that it was Face- up - To - It - Friday:  Life was dealing me some Hard Lessons and I wondered if I'd pass the tests being delivered.

Lesson 1
The first slap in the face from my world came early  in the day via a response to an e-mail I had sent a friend requesting some advice and support about a horse my daughter was having trouble riding.  The e-mail was blunt to the point of being rude and suggested I was being irresponsible in my parenting by not making my daughter ride the horse (read by me as I'm a bad parent) and by considering leasing the horse  out to a more experienced rider (read by me as I'm a poor decision maker).  The response also stated that I did not value her or her opinion anyway (.read by me as I'm disrespectful and ungrateful). By the time I got to the end of the e-mail I was ready to explode and almost sent a "go feck yourself" response.

I took a much needed breath and reflected on what was written, not what I had interpreted as being written. I considered:
  •  Did I want to stick it to her because I was angry with what she said 
  • Was there anything in what she that was true (at least in part or from her perspective)?
  • Did I value her and our relationship? 
  • Could I respond in a way that would be positive and conciliatory without defending myself or justifying myself
  • Maybe I shouldn't respond at all
Taking time to reflect on my options was a great idea as it allowed me time to cool down and consider a response and all its implications.  I did value this persons opinion and our relationship, but I disagreed with her advice.  So I sent an  e-mail that thanked her for taking the time to consider my request and explained that I valued her and her opinion.  I did not defend or justify myself or my view .  She responded by acknowledging she may have been a bit terse in her original e-mail and wished my luck with the horse issue. A win- win and I think a pass on that test.

"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt" (Abraham Lincoln)

Lesson 2
The second slap closely followed the first.  I stared to feel I was in the ring for a 10 rounder.  A young couple ( 18 year old) I had rented a small farm cottage to had used all their tank water (3000 gallons) in the space of a week for the second time in a month.  After the first instance, I had given them a sheet outlining some water saving strategies.  It seemed they just did not have the skills to live on a restricted water supply. The water pump had been running overnight and was about to blow up (just like me).  I asked them to meet me to discuss options.  The option in the forefront of my mind and on my lips was "time to terminate their tenancy" for their own good (they could not continue to buy water at $200/week) and before they damaged the pump and water supply system (very expensive to replace $10,000).

I'm glad I took the time to meet with them before making my decision. During the meeting it came to light that they had switched a dial on the pump and had pumped their water out onto the ground without realising it.  I recalled my own youth and inexperience in renting.  I made the decision to purchase more water at my own expense to assist them on their journey to adulthood on the condition they learn how to operate the water supply system.  In this instance, taking the time to discuss the issue, gather all the facts and look at all the options enabled a better outcome then a "bull at a gate" reaction to the situation. I felt it was a good outcome for us all.

"When your thoughts run riot your tongue is apt to join the crows" (Unknown)
Lesson 3
Another kick in the pants arrived full force soon after the water debacle.  I met with a friend to discuss the development of an e-book.  We are quite different people in nature and come from very different backgrounds.  I had collated a considerable amount of material and put together a draft of the booklet for us to discuss.   Without even reading the materiel, my colleague advised me that she thought I was being too "text bookish" and not being authentic (sharing my own story).  I was a bit taken aback with the feedback, especially since she hadn't read anything I'd written.  I wanted to defend myself and refute what she had said and challenge her about her own contribution to the project.  I could hear all the words I wanted to say tumbling around in my head and almost falling out of my mouth.

But I held my tongue and thought about the outcome I was seeking.  I also acknowledged that it  took courage for her to be that frank with me. Therefore,  I considered all my options before letting the words flow.  I thanked my colleague for her honesty and admitted there was some truth to what she had said.  I stated that our meetings were an opportunity for us both too grow personally and professionally if we were prepared to accept feedback as constructive and given with positive intention.  Our meeting then moved forward with a greater understanding of how we could each contribute to the project based on our strengths and how we could help each other work on our stretches.

"Find the grain of truth in criticism - chew it and swallow it" (D. Dutten)
Lesson 4  
My last lesson for the day came Friday night when I again received an email from a fellow blogger taking me to task about breaching blogging protocols.  You can image, how exhausted I felt by now and I sent up a plead to God asking for a break already.  That I didn't need any more fodder for thought and I had learnt my lesson -  think before you speak as words can hurt or heal.  After my initial shock and need to defend myself, I looked for the truth in the e-mail form his perspective and also how I might have responded if I was in his shoes.  I felt he was justified and that I did owe him an apology. So thanks Ken Wert for the heads up on all things related to blogging protocol and linking me to your Meant to be Happy page. 

"People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing (Will Rogers) 

What was the overall learning from my   Face- up - To - It - Friday:

  1. When someone says or does something that makes you angry, defensive, or upset, don't react.  Take some time to think about why it has caused you to feel that way.
  2. Respond don't React.  Responding implies that you have taken some time to think about the situation as opposed to saying what has immediately come to mind. 
  3. Get all the facts, don't make assumptions 
  4. Think of the outcome you want from the exchange.  Don't get even or become defensive.  This might give you some short term satisfaction but may have other negative consequences or lead to a feeling of guilt ( you know - wishing you hadn't said that). 
  5. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  If there are two ways something said or done can be interpreted then assume it was meant the better of the two.  Remember you have a choice in how you respond. 
"Give people a piece of your heart instead of a peace of your mind" (Unknown)

I'd love to hear from you about how you've responded to criticism or havepeple have reacted unexpectedly to something  you've said.

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