When someone slaps me, my natural tendency is to say, “Ow, what the heck, dude. Chill.”
I believe that raw conflict in the workplace rarely leads to anything good. I don’t slap back. I want to believe that over time, if I behave in a way that keeps my conscience clear–being inclusive, striving for transparency and clarity, taking others’ interests into consideration, and acting with integrity and honesty–people around me will recognize that and know me for who I really am. Everyone falters once in a while, and I believe it’s better to forgive, especially if the person’s entire body of work proves them to be a good, upstanding person.
On Friday, I got slapped. Scratch that… I got slammed hard. Unfairly and wrongly. When I heard what had been said about me, the word defamation came to mind.
Of course, this was not said to my face; it was fed in private to people who have direct influence over my livelihood and my career. (Side lesson: Everything you say about someone might make it back to that person.)
Stunned at first, I laughed it off. Of course everyone will see how ridiculous it was.
Ten minutes later, I was seething. How dare they? Such an attack cannot go undefended. I wanted to erupt, to spout equally strong language in defending myself and showing how little credibility my attacker had. I wanted to point out their long track record of deceit and underhandedness.
Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself of Joan’s 24-hour rule.
From time to time I need to step back and ask myself,
What would Joan do?
Joan was a beloved friend and trusted manager who taught me a lot in our few years together. One of the biggest lessons was the 24 hour rule.
It’s simple: When you face a sudden emotional situation, make yourself wait 24 hours before responding. When the explosive moment has cooled, you’ll see the big picture and can plan a better, more productive response.
You may need to find other ways of venting frustration and anger. Go to the gym. Talk it through with a trusted friend. Journal it. Redirect into other expressions that help you process your thoughts and get perspective and objectivity.
You can even write the response in an email to yourself, just to say what you have to say. It’s the digital equivalent of screaming into a pillow. Sometimes you may need 48 hours, or even longer.
Frequently, you’ll find that once the emotion is gone, you realize the best response is no response at all.
Other times, you’ll find that the distance and time have given you the opportunity to formulate a far better, more effective response.