Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I was about to step to the platform to address an energetic audience. I was talking with a friend about the content of my presentation when the event coordinator interrupted our conversation. He dismissed my friend with a demeaning comment and asked, “Are you going to wear “THAT” outfit to the platform? His eyebrows were raised in obvious disgusted annoyance. I was wearing new jeans, a shirt and a sport coat. It was the jeans that incurred his wrath.
His condescending tone flipped a switch deep inside my soul. My response was instantaneous, clever, profoundly logical, and……… totally inappropriate, but my lips were already moving and I spit the words out with vengeance.
“Do you want me to not give my presentation?”
“Would you like my assistant try to buy some slacks in the next, I paused to take a quick glance at my watch, 13 minutes?”
“Perhaps you would like me to try to get one of your guests or your boss to lend me their slacks for my presentation?”
“Then what possible benefit could come from you confronting me so close to my talk, AND what possible negative consequences could possibly come from me making my presentation dressed the way I am?”
My question was met with silence, an angry glare, and hasty departure. I might become a lawyer some day!
Listen carefully friends. My misjudgment concerning the proper dress was careless but forgivable. In Tennessee business professional means “for sure wear a coat and a shirt” and in some places it means “wear at least a loin cloth.” But no matter how clever and biting my cross examination was, I was wrong!
My REACTION seemed spontaneous with no time to choose a better response. I later apologized and I asked God for the grace to help me find a Nano Second between the flip of that switch in my soul and my verbal REACTION so that I could at least make a decision to do the right thing.
So what did I learn???
I DO have time to make an appropriate decision and respond with grace. Unkind and demeaning treatment can throw a switch directly connected to our FEELINGS but that switch is not directly connected to our REACTIONS.
- FEELINGS are unavoidable. It is okay to suddenly be overcome with feelings of anger, resentment, helplessness, etc.
- RESPONSE is a choice.
Even in the midst of all the feelings that washed over me I could have said, “I am so sorry that I misunderstood the requirements. Please forgive me. What can I do to help at this late stage?”
Remember this little progression of truth.
- Feelings can be triggered without warning.
- Feelings are immediate.
- Feelings are okay.
- Feelings precede words. Use that time to take a deep breath and choose your words kindly and carefully.
Am I the only one who has to hold his tongue when the heat is on?
Have you been put in a humiliating situation where you felt you lashed out spontaneously?
What secrets do you use to keep your words kind when your soul is wounded?
I would love to hear your comments.