I am writing this at 4am on vacation thinking about an email that was better left unsent. After looking at the email three times there was nothing overly offensive about it, but here is the thing, my life would have been easier if I had just paused and waited it out. Waited for someone else to respond, waited for the situation to resolve itself, waited for someone else to encourage me to respond, just WAITED.
I have a feeling this problem is plaguing lots of people today. When we see that facebook post about politics that is offensive or inaccurate, instead of pausing to think about really the best way to address the person or accomplish our goals we hit the comment button immediately. Hence facebook thread fights that I have often read relishing in the entertainment and feeling all noble that I wouldn’t get involved in one of those. But of course I recently engaged and commented on an offensive post of an acquaintance. To be honest that one I didn’t regret and it never turned into the back and forth I have seen some of them get into (I like to think it is because I made such a powerful point and the person regretted their post, but most likely they learned the power of silence). There might still come a time when I run into this person and I realize that certain things are better left unsaid (or at least not said in facebook or email).
As I write this I wonder what the line is between things being better left unsaid and standing up to someone. In cases of political conversations my instinct would be to go ahead and engage (although again what is the difference between engaging immediately versus waiting an hour?) Politics are supposed to be discussed, although probably not on a back and forth chain, but ideally looking at each other and reading each other’s social cues.
In other situations, like the one I am in, I guess the question is what is a response going to get you that waiting can’t. Waiting leaves the door open for a response, but at least in a more thought out manner. I think my challenge with waiting is that I feel I can’t put an issue to bed or move on unless I have addressed it and responded. That sounds like how couples fight and probably isn’t the best way to handle professional situations.
The “wait and reflect” improvement path has been a journey for me. I have come a long way, thanks to my husband who is usually patient and thoughtful in his email replies and will often pick up the phone in tricky situations rather than respond to an email. He has encouraged me to pause in tense situations with landlords, neighbors, or family. I have never once regretted the waiting approach, but in the moment it can be hard to remember. It probably all comes back to the difficulty in sitting with someone uncomfortable. I want to do anything I think will resolve feelings of discomfort when really if I just sat with them for a moment they would probably subside and the situation would resolve itself. This thing is I pride myself on being a good emailer and know that other people struggle with managing their emails and maybe there is such a thing as waiting too long to reply. There could be a whole group of people out there who are beating themselves up for not replying to emails they get and letting their inbox fill up. They could be offending people in a whole different way who feel snubbed at the lack of response. We are all just looking for that middle ground response rate.
I wish I was better at the wait and reflect approach and I hope by writing this post it will set it out in the universe (or at least internet space) as a new intention that will be back in my mind every time I hit reply. Or maybe there is an intrepid silicon valley start-ups that can create an app that can tell when you are engaged in difficult email situations (heart rate monitoring?) and has a pop-up with the sign, “WAIT!” and will not let you respond for an hour. Maybe it is too niche of a market just to create an app for only me? Although hoping I am not alone in this character weakness and maybe there are whole support groups for the over reactive emailers out there.
I was about to post this, instead of waiting until later of course, just to get it off my chest, but then I had strange technical issues trying to post it. Was that a sign to wait? If so, I ignored it and posted. I have a graveyard full of “wait and see” posts that I never found the time and energy to come back to so maybe blogging can be the occasional chance to break my own rule. Only time will tell…