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With disbelief, I read and re-read something I wrote way too fast, frustration peppering my words, the ‘send’ key pressed too soon. I wasn’t proud of that e-mail, knowing I could have used a different turn of phrase, given the benefit of the doubt, rather than having jumped to conclusions. Not good. What made it worse was that the e-mail was sent simultaneously to other people working on this project, and it was too late to take it back. Not good at all.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. If you have written or said something you regretted afterwards. Maybe this kind of outburst can be attributed to stress, or to bottled up frustrations reaching a boiling point. The unfortunate result is a possibly irreversible erosion of trust, and damaged relationships.

What I know for sure is that outbursts are usually a sign that it’s high time for a genuine conversation, starting with my inner self. The flash of lightning is not an accident after all. It’s a vital signal that some aspect of my life needs my attention. Or, I can keep ignoring it at my peril.

Some will say: “Everyone loses their calm occasionally! We’re human after all. No need to agonize over it. Let’s just move on!”

Yes, sometimes, you show impatience and then apologize and move on. Or you use inappropriate humour to express your frustration and then say you were just kidding; hoping everyone agrees with laughter.  But is it wise to brush it aside, assuming it won’t happen again because you’ve ignored it long enough?

What to do when the bottle is about to pop or has popped already:

  • Re-group: Take a break, take a deep breath, take a walk. Find a way to interrupt your negative state.
  • Save as draft: Don’t hit ‘send’! Don’t talk back! Put it aside until you had a chance to think it through.
  • Open the door to your growth: Let the feeling (frustration, anger, sadness, guilt) move inside you, acknowledge it without judgment; it’s there to tell you something you need to know.
  • Open the door to your growth – Continued: When you’re calm, do a bit of digging. What could have led to this pent up feeling? We usually have the answer. Sometimes we just don’t like the answer.

It’s not enough to just apologize; learn from it. The guilt and embarrassment after pressing ‘send’ are very real. Believe me, I know! Paradoxically, the insight gained from facing the source of that frustration is the stuff of valuable personal and professional growth.  Finally, forgive yourself. That too is part of growth.

Living and learning come as a package deal. The pathway of life is an unpredictable mix of wonderful victories, and unfortunate mistakes. Taking full measure of a mistake from it’s source (i.e. me), will go a long way to ensuring I don’t repeat it. Lesson learned!

Have you ever hit ‘send’ and felt that horrifying realization that it was a mistake?