What’s REALLY Bothering You?

This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Some people get it right away – I didn’t. Here’s the lesson: When you are at odds with someone and their response to you seems way out of proportion to the situation, there’s generally something else going on. If you’re not mindful of this, you can get into arguments that you shouldn’t be in. For instance…

Snow in Middle Tennessee is a rare treat so when it’s in the forecast, lots of people wait with bated breath for the first few snowflakes to fall. A few years ago, a forecast for snow didn’t pan out and I received several e-mails from disappointed viewers. But one was particularly harsh and personal. I was the worst meteorologist she had ever watched and she was never watching again! As I read, it made me angry. I started to fire back an e-mail in response but then I stopped… I tried something different. This woman was way too upset at me for what actually happened. So, I wrote back a note and told her that I, too, was disappointed with the missed forecast. I remembered how let down I felt as a youngster waiting all night for a snow that didn’t happen. Finally, I told her I appreciated her taking the time to write, whether good or bad, and that I hoped she would again one day give my forecasts a try.

Later that day, I received a note back. It was a note of apology. She thanked me for responding and went on to explain she was sorry for what she had written. She wrote a story of some very tough times she had seen over the last few days and that she was just taking out her frustations on me. Last, she told me that she would certainly watch again…

I learned a big lesson that day. What if I had fired back an angry response to her? Where would that have gotten me? I could have made the situation even worse. This is the way a lot of arguments with spouses start. Someone has a short fuse because of a bad day but the other doesn’t give a little grace. An argument escalates and by the end of it, you don’t even remember what you started arguing about in the first place. Sometimes it just takes stepping back and asking, “Is what we’re talking about the REAL problem here?”

So, watch out for those times when the response seems totally out of proportion to the situation. There’s generally something else at work here. Try to remain calm and show a little grace. This could save you, especially in your close relationships, from some very hurtful and unnecessary arguments…

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4 Responses

  1. This is a great lesson, Charlie. I agree, when a response is out of proportion there almost always seems to be a deeper issue. And responding rather than reacting can bring out the truth of any situation – hence discovering the fundamental and underlying problem. THANKS for the post!

  2. Wow – great illustration of grace and understanding rather than replying with something you would later regret. Having been in sales for the past 16 years, there have been many times when I have been in meetings, on the phone or exchanging emails with customers, that I have wanted to strike back against something that was said to me about my product or service (or sometimes even against me personally) but I would hold my tongue for the sake of my job. These scenarios taught me to dig deeper to find the real reason that the customer was upset. Just like your example, Charlie, many times the underlying issue was that they were having a bad day or were having personal issues. Showing grace in these situations is much easier said than done, but the reward is so great!

  3. This is so true Charlie. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this dynamic play out in the church. I’m sure it’s true of all organizations and relationships!

    If I could just keep this truth lodged in my brain it would save me a lot of trouble!

  4. Charlie,
    You are so right! I have, in the past, came back with an angry response. It is, I guess, natural to “fire” back an angry response without thinking, but as you have reminded us — it is not a wise decision.

    I think in both personal & professional aspects, we should slow down and think before we speak. We should consider the feelings and attitudes of others
    first! Thanks for the great post!

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