Have you ever gotten a rude email from a coworker, a snotty text from a teenager, or read an aggravating post on Facebook? Welcome to the information superhighway. We are bombarded daily with messages from so many different directions, it’s hard to know which way is up.
I have learned the hard way, that the way to deal with messages that make me mad, whether they are from my children, coworkers, friends or acquaintances, is to not hit send.
When I receive a message that rubs me the wrong way, my initial response is usually disbelief. “What?” I think. “How could they say such a thing to me, or about me? I’ve never done anything wrong! I am an innocent bystander.”
My disbelief usually gives way quickly to righteous indignation. “I’m going to set them straight. They obviously don’t know what they are talking about,” I think as my fingers quickly type out a biting response.
Those responses, fired off in the heat of passion, rarely produce the desired result. What I want is a broken and contrite teenager. What I get is a back and forth of nasty that leaves me feeling drained, defeated and dirty.
Fortunately, with eight kids, I get lots of practice. And I have learned that, while a witty and hard-hitting retort may satisfy my need to be right, it is usually not in my best interest. Wait. I exaggerate. It is never in my best interest to cut people to the quick.
I work with words. I love words. I pride myself on being able to eviscerate a person with just a few quick key-strokes. The written word is a powerful tool. Much like our spoken words, what we say has the power to lift someone up, or tear them down. When attacked, I often choose to come back with greater force, to teach them a much-needed lesson.
There is a better way. When you see something that hurts you, or is untrue about you, or just makes you mad, you can write the meanest response you like. The secret is to not hit send.
Once you have written your rebuttal, don’t hit send. Wait a while. Reread it. Consider if this is truly how you want to present yourself.
Who we are is a result of what we think, say and do. The things we do and say are evident to everyone around us. As a mom, as a friend, and as a person, I want to be kind, gentle and loving to those around me. Even when I get mad, or feel unjustly attacked, my response should reflect who I want to be. Each moment is an opportunity to decide again, who you want to be.
Go ahead and write that scathing response. Even better than typing it, write it by hand on a piece of paper. You can really let them have it on paper. Once you have written your meanest, self-justifying letter, read it again. Consider for a moment that what the other person said or wrote really had nothing to do with you. Although they sent that text or email, or made that comment, it is really a reflection of who they are, and where they were at that moment. It has nothing to do with you. Really.
Now that you’ve reread your response, consider if this is really who you are. Is this how you want that person to perceive you? If you are on social media, is this how you want everyone else to perceive you? Do you really want your kids, your coworkers and your friends to feel the full brunt of your ire?
Now is the time to hit delete. You’ve written your response, vented your anger, and had your say. Now, don’t hit send. Let it sit awhile. Chances are, when you come back around to your response in a few minutes, or an hour, or a day, you will feel differently.
I rarely regret holding my tongue. I always regret the unkind words I have spoken. The sharp sword of my words brings regret and sadness and the satisfaction I long for is elusive.
A kind word is never wasted or regretted. If you are ever in doubt, don’t hit send.
Deborah Demander: Writer,