Before You Respond Negatively…

Have you ever received a negative or unkind email from a friend or family member?  I’m talking about from people who don’t normally send emails like that.

My wife and other members of her family received an email from one of her siblings recently, expressing their displeasure over how a current family situation is being handled.  The sibling’s email expressed blame and disappointment at family members and was not well received.

It would be so easy to let emotion take the lead, and respond negatively to this email. However, all that usually proves to do is make the situation worse.

I’ve written in a previous blog that there is a space between a stimulus (like a negative email) and our response to it.  I think this is some important to remember, especially when we may be feeling emotionally charged or fired up by a stimulus.

As I was talking to my wife about the email, I began wondering caused them to send the email.  What was the reason?  I wondered what they were dealing with that caused them to send the email.  Perhaps the family situation was causing the sibling to feel:

  • Fear
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Helplessness
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

Maybe I’m wrong, but I would guess that most negative emails are sent, not because the sender is a jerk, but because the sender is feeling one or more of the emotions above.  Perhaps even some additional emotions not listed.  I certainly think this is the case with my wife’s sibling. As I look at the email from this angle, it’s easy to see the sender, not as a jerk, but as a hurting human being.

The next time you receive a negative email, phone message, or any other form of communication, try to look past what’s being said and see if you can determine why it was delivered.  What is the sender dealing with?  Are there certain feelings and emotions in play?  Are they struggling, hurting, or making a poor attempt express a thought our concern?

Avoid the desire to be negative and lash out in return.  You just may save a relationship.

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