How many times have you thought of the perfect response to a statement or argument but not until long after the opportunity had passed? Although the immediate emotion upon discovery of response is typically that of frustration due to the late timing, in reality, the delayed brain reaction in creating a critical (and often hurtful) response is to your protection.
It is believed that the brain slows down at times to protect us against ourselves. If we were able to immediately formulate the emotional response, it would probably be extremely hurtful and could potentially jeopardize long-term relationships. Although such responses in personal relationships can be damaging, personal relationships are often easier to heal. However, such a response in a business relationship can forever redefine a professional relation (if not resulting in the total termination of the business relationship).
It is well understood that words can hurt far more and cut much deeper than physical pain. The irony of a quick hurtful response in a personal relationship is that the immediate emotion is often one of pride and pleasure for delivering such a zinger. However, the pleasurable emotion is quickly replaced with guilt and regret for making the hurtful statement. Over time personal relationships often heal – although the relationship is sometimes redefined.
In business, it takes a lot more discipline to protect yourself from falling into the trap of quick emotional responses. Needless to say in business there is quite a bit of posturing and self-promotion of individuals while simultaneously avoiding personal responsibilities. Although these individuals may not be the caliber of person that one desires to have a personal relationship, it is necessary to maintain a positive and professional business relationship. Therefore, when responding to these individuals it is best to remove all areas of emotion and relate only to the facts – while maintaining a certain level of passion.
This can be tricky in face-to-face meetings, but often using the 3-second rule proves to be the best method. Rather than immediately respond to an absurd statement, pause for 3-seconds while you mentally edit your response. Maintain eye contact with the individual during the 3-second period and then calmly and clearly respond.
Fortunately/Unfortunately in today’s environment, the majority of business communication occurs via e-mails. Due to the sterile environment of e-mails, often e-mails can be interpreted differently than they were intended. This becomes increasingly problematic with the size of the distribution list (how many people were “cc”). In this scenario, it is important that the power of the emotional response be leverage. A response should immediately be typed while all of the information and anger/emotion is fresh in the mind, BUT it is critical that the response not is sent.
Walk away from the e-mail for a period of time. Focus on a different task or simply redirect your attention elsewhere. After a period of time, return to the e-mail and edit it down to a more professional and appropriate response. The primary message of the response should remain the same while the delivery/tone of the response is less defensive, less personal, and maintains complete professionalism.
This methodology will provide the satisfaction of getting your response out (which could potentially be personal and hurtful), but due to the discipline of reviewing the response through calmer eyes and understanding the probable consequences of sending such a raw response……..relationships are protected.
Personal gratification of a quick pointed response is always trumped by the long-term consequences that must be lived with for making such a quick pointed response. Success is determined not by simply focusing on the immediate but focusing on the long-term implications resulting from an immediate action.
Husband, father, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things hockey. At 51 I sometimes wonder have I done enough. I have been married to my best friend for 30 years. She knows all my faults and loves me anyway, As a father of “almost always” perfect boys, I am always surprised at what life has to offer. It is messy, scary, thrilling, and always fun.