I must admit, I sometimes overreact. Especially when a perceived injustice has been done. Thankfully, only those closest to me have ever seen it.
We have all been guilty of overreacting at some point. However, we must consider what matters most: Our outcome -- in the moment or in the future.
We have all done it: Given someone the silent treatment, abruptly ended a conversation when we didn’t like or agree with it, or hit send on the email written with words in ALL CAPS and with a few exclamation points. You got it off your chest. But was it worth it? Was it helpful or hurtful? How does it affect the other person or the situation?
Before “setting someone straight” or sending an email that makes matters worse, consider doing these three alternatives:
Talk it through
I recall receiving an email from a colleague who pulled out of a new project we were working on. I was under the gun to get it finished, but now felt like I was back at square one. My initial reaction was “Didn’t you know you weren’t going to be able to work on this when we started?” I was disappointed in how the situation was handled and immediately typed up a snarky response. Thankfully a friend witnessed the whole thing and helped me process it. Her advice was simple: “Don’t send that!” Sure, I would have felt better, but feeling better is never worth sacrificing your brand, integrity or leadership stature.
Think it through
Many times we assume the worse in others or in a situation. We make up our own scenarios of what we believe someone thinks, said or plans to do. In our made up scenario, we are going to be fired or a major client will leave because of an error we made, or the company is going to announce layoffs and we are on the list. The scenarios can spiral out of control. It is not until time has passed that we discover the reality was far from our scenario. Count the number of times you have overreacted and the situation was not as bad as you initially thought. The next time you want to go from zero to 80, ask yourself, “Have I fully assessed the situation or am I assuming?”
Let it go
Yes, we are important and our feelings matter. But people are far too busy to focus on us as much as we think they do.
Oprah once recalled having a hard time forgiving someone she had a disagreement with many years before. That disagreement led to years of harboring resentment and bitterness – until she saw the person away from work laughing and joking with friends. She realized, at that moment, this person had moved on and was living his life, while she was still upset by the past. Overreacting and holding on to hurts does more damage to you than anyone else.
You have the right to feel however you do when someone disappoints, hurts or shows malice toward you. But you can own your reaction. Overreacting and split-second decisions can have a negative impact on our life, career, business and relationships.
The late Maya Angelou said it best: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”