Don’t Take it Personal; Don’t Make it Personal

I stared at the computer screen one last moment, fingers poised to pull the trigger on the Send icon, firing my message, Ney, my rebuttal—a careful defense of my character, into cyberspace. I would Reply To All so that they will know that I am an innocent man. That these half-truths, disguised as feedback, were not only misleading, but they were hypocritical—achieved only last week in a similar fashion by the crafty accuser herself.

But something’s just not right. Something feels very amateur—something is unprofessional about all of this, I thought to myself. My index finger slowly retreated from the mouse pad and sat back in my chair and glanced out the window, thinking about the mess.

Breathe.

I poured over the email one more time, looking for a clue, some insight, as to why I felt so unsettled about sending this message.

The first paragraph was fine—a clear and concise summary of the main issues at hand. Issues that the team had been struggling with for over two months now. My blood pressure stabilized and the soreness in my throat subsided.

Then the second paragraph began to burn bright blue, like a new star, hot with passion, where responses to the so-called feedback streaked across the screen in a blur and my emotions welled up from my belly, through my neck, and into my eyes.

There in the blur, like a cryptic message evolving into your native language, it became clear to me. I was focused on the earth’s shadow cast across the moon’s face, rather than taking delight in the bright side that reflected the sun’s light. I had taken it personal.

Not only did I take it personal, I spent the last several lines of the email making it personal, by needlessly pointing out all of the behaviors that were similar to what I was being accused of. I envisioned innocent by standers, caught in the cross fire of two co-workers emotions, rolling their eyes in disgust.

There I sat, like a little boy that had been sent to his room for getting into a ticky-tacky argument with his sister. Silent and surprised that I had gotten worked up so easily. I’m glad I took that moment to reflect before sending out that piece of correspondence. As I went back through the email and deleted all of the unnecessary comments and unnecessary defenses, I felt a great sense of relief in knowing that I don’t need to take it personal, nor do I need to make it personal.

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

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  1. This is a great post to remind people that emotionally charged emails are dangerous and have to be reviewed with a different set of eyese before ever being sent. I would even offer the advice that there be a 24 hour rule before sending anything – and the first choice if it is an ‘accountability’ message it should be a phone call or an in person meeting.

    I have seen more damage done than positive outcomes with emotionally charged emails – even when the language is softened.

    Jason – what would be your adivce is the person in this story was the CEO?

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