Just yesterday, I had an interchange with someone close to me (not in my family, but still close) that didn't go very well. This person asked me a question that I perceived negatively, and I got angry.
His wording was a little off, and he got mildly put-off with me as well. However, he didn't mean to irritate me. He had no intention of asking the question that got me going in a way that I would perceive as an attack. Still, I perceived it as an attack, and I got mad.
Yes, I was a bit tired from working some late nights. It is true that I have been sick for the last two days, and I wasn't feeling well. It is also true that his request came to me when I was working under some deadlines to get projects done that were rather pressing. All of these pressures probably made me a little more on edge than usual. And still, I overreacted.
Fortunately, we met face to face shortly after our text/phone interchange, and we quickly resolved the issue. That was good.
Here are the key learning points for all of us (me included):
- Pick the right time and place to confront a miscommunication – on a cell phone while both of you are driving is probably not a good idea.
- Be on guard at all times for misperception – yours and theirs. (In this case, I should have been doubly on-guard given my physical state at the time.)
- When things go astray, be ready to meet personally with the person to work it out.
- Be willing to apologize for whatever you did to contribute to the conflict.
The reality of life is that you will have conflicts and that knowing intellectually how to resolve them will not make you immune to them. They will often happen when you let your guard down and allow your emotional “buttons” to get “pushed.” That is certainly what I experienced in this event.
As I get farther away from the event, I begin to wonder: “How did I let myself get so angry so quickly?” The answer, I think, is that I was reacting to a question rather than thinking about the person asking the question and the whole situation. I was judgmental rather than curious. In short, I let my buttons get pushed by someone who had no intention to do so.
So, as I work to get over myself, I encourage you to do the same. Know your emotional triggers, be aware of how they could get unintentionally triggered, and watch your step in communications with others. I don't propose that you or I will ever be perfect at doing this. We can work at it and attempt to get better.