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Monday, December 20, 2010

Value of Restraint

Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret."
- Dr. Laurence J. Peter 

I've thought a lot about this concept. I've been guilty of shooting off my mouth (or an email) when I'm angry. My last post written to Home Depot was done after the heat of anger had cooled. But, it still comes off as maybe a bit more harsh than it should have been. However, I still got the result I was looking for: awareness and a reaction from Home Depot themselves. 

Since I'm in a career that is largely in the public eye, I deal with a lot of complaints. Women are not shy about voicing their frustrations and disappointments. I can type in the word "disappointment" in my search window in my email client and find at least four or five emails from women who were disappointed in something I was a part of — an ad that ran in the magazine for which I run, a shirt that didn't fit or a detail that was omitted from a story that the reader felt was vital. In many cases, I had to make a judgment call and knew I'd make at least a few people frustrated.

When you're in the heat of anger, though, rattling off an email or calling to rant at the offender about how disappointed you are often comes back to bite you. 

The other day I received two nasty, angry emails. I calmly replied that I'd see what I could do to resolve the situation, then separately called both parties. In both cases, I was met with chagrin.

One person said, "I'm sorry. I probably should have waited to send that [email] to you. Now that I look at the situation, I realize it's no big deal."

I think we can all learn a lesson in restraint. When you're angry. Wait.

Wait some more.

Then, think as you write your letter or email to the person with which you're angry. Think about what you want to say to them before you say it. Then wait some more before sending it or saying it. Re-read what you write aloud and determine if it's worth sending. You'll save yourself a lot of regret and shame if you handle yourself with restraint. 

The old adage "an ounce of prevention" certainly applies in these cases. I certainly appreciate it when I'm on the receiving end of someones disappointment.

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