Perspective Is Everything
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“No good deed goes unpunished.” It was this aphorism that came to my mind when I found myself receiving what I perceived to be a pointed (and borderline rude) email from someone who was following up on a favor I had promised them. To be fair to them, I had got delayed on the timeline I had in mind to do what I was supposed to do- this was, however, not because I had forgotten or disregarded their needs, it was simply because an unexpected truckload of work came my way that required my urgent attention, and so, I had to push the not-so-critical tasks on my plate to the wayside, at least for a bit. However, the person who was following up with me didn’t know that this was what was happening on my side of the equation, but their blithe ignorance didn’t stop them from taking on what I perceived to be an entitled, demanding tone in their message asking me for a status update of sorts.
Let it be noted here that this person was essentially a stranger to me- I had come across them quite by chance at an event, and having been impressed by their energy and enthusiasm, I thought it wouldn’t hurt me to do something that’d potentially give them and their business a boost. So, you can perhaps understand my chagrin when, at the end of a particularly long and busy day in the office, I come home to open this email from someone I barely knew not just being rather critical about my work ethic, but also making assumptions about (and blatantly discounting) what I’ve do in my job on a day-to-day basis. I started to type out a reply on my phone with a fury that matched the feelings I had in mind for this particular person, while also ruing the moment I made the decision to try to support them in the first place.
Now, I might have gone ahead and actually sent that rage-fueled reply, had it not been for a lesson I learned quite early on in my career, which was to never send an email when you’re angry. So, I did a quick re-read of what I had written while my finger hovered over the “send” button, and those few seconds helped better sense to prevail over me, in that I decided to wait until the next morning to send a reply. Doing this helped me come to a realization: while I may have had a valid reason to be angry, that didn’t excuse me responding badly to them either- if I did, I’d have been behaving in the same annoying manner as my counterpart. After all, they had made suppositions about my circumstances and intentions- it’d be silly for me to do the same with them.
The next morning, after having suitably calmed down, the email I ended up sending to them had none of the ire contained in the draft I had crafted the night before, and while I made it clear that I didn’t appreciate the tone they had used, my reply to them was still polite and professional. I got a response to this message a few days later- they confessed that they had had a frustrating day of their own when they sent that problematic email, and given what I had gone through myself, it was easy enough for me to understand why they had followed up with me in this annoying manner. The only difference was that I hit pause before acting on my anger, and rethought what I was going to do.
The point of sharing this whole exploit is to reinforce a point that I had laid out at the start of this year, which is, to be put it quite simply, get some perspective. Be it a rude email to someone you know, or a snide comment about a person you just met, or even just a nasty tweet about an individual you know really nothing about, it’s somehow become easier for all of us to behave badly, when it’s clear that the better thing to do (and maybe that’s why it is so tough) is to showcase some empathy, and simply think before you spew out negativity (and accusations). After all, one never knows what someone else is going through in a personal capacity, and as such, it’s well within our interest to make sure all of our interactions are kind. At the end of the day, it’s simply the nicer thing to do.