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Pattern Interrupt: Before you send that email…

A woman I’ve never met emailed me. There were 14 sentences in her email. Eleven of them were tsk-tsks and advice on something related to one of my hobbies.

Initially I just deleted it, reminding myself that life is short. Then, when I found myself thinking about it repeatedly, I undeleted it and drafted a pleasant, but very pointed, reply.

My reply began like this: “Advice is a curious thing. It’s curious because it’s quite an odd way to introduce oneself. And it’s curious because, almost inevitably, the advice-giver can be caught making the same mistakes they so vociferously have advised against. Take, for instance, your…” I went on to list a few transgressions I found quickly when visiting her own online work related to the hobby, the very mistakes she had assumed I’d made.

I really wanted to send that email. I’d had a week of feeling like I’d turned my other cheek and bitten my tongue a great deal. I felt weary of others I’d experienced as holier-than-thou, catty, and rude.

I would not have been unjustified in my response. I would have been “right” enough.

I clicked through the questions I’ve taught myself to ask before taking an action I might regret later. Questions like: What am I trying to achieve? Will I even remember her existence in three months?

None helped much. My finger itched to click that send button.

Then I got to this question: Is this something I want to cultivate in myself?

That sure stopped me cold. Because, of course, it wasn’t. It was quite the opposite.

And I was reminded again how much I like this question. I like it because:

  • It appeals to my better self, the part of me I will feel good about later.
  • It invites psychological self-distancing, which helps clear-headed decision making.
  • It reminds me that even a justified reaction isn’t necessarily the best reaction.

Maybe it can be useful to you sometime: Is this a practice I want to cultivate in myself?

                        author

Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at https://tammylenski.com/archives/… MORE >

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