Recently had a meeting with a person about an email I sent to him a few days earlier. To give some context, the mail was a reaction on a specific situation and contained a couple of strong statements about the way expectations were set and work that was not executed as agreed.
I understood that the receiver of the mail had taken the points personally and he had called for this meeting as he wanted to discuss the statements and the tone used in the mail. During the meeting, where also a third person was present as an observer as requested by the receiver, I started to explain the context of my critical comments and the point in time that had triggered me to give these comments. The whole message could be boiled down to setting expectations and lack of updates to reset/adjust the expectations.
While explaining the context of my mail and the reason I reacted in that specific way I felt the same anger and frustration I felt when writing the mail. This came specifically when I pointed out the exact sequence of events that I identified as unacceptable. I was aware of my emotional reactions and was able to explain why I reacted in that specific way as there has been a long build up of events that eventually led to a climax. The fact I found that only after my call done at a for me random moment led to immediate (but still late) action by the receiver was for me the proof of the other having failed in their task.
What I can see now is that I reacted in an impulse and as a consequence I had to justify my reaction as I had personally attacked the other claiming he had not done his work properly. What if I had taken a breath while having the reaction and instead of reacting in the context of “I’ve got you this time and I am going to let you feel you are incompetent” I could have reacted stating the facts and asking how such a situation could have happened and how it can be prevented in the future. I am sure the result would have been more constructive as now the other party is cautious when communicating with me and this might lead to not getting all the relevant information as they might fear my reaction a second time.
Looking back at the meeting I can see that the message I wanted to get across was different than the message I wrote down in my mail. The mail pointed out my frustration and was pointing to the incompetent actions. The real message was that I wanted to have a different way of communication with triggers that would lead to better understanding the situation and allow me to relay the information to others effectively. I can see my emotional reaction was leading in the opposite direction where the other party might decide to give less information instead of more. During the meeting I had to work hard to restore the relation and to point out what the actual goal of the message really was.
From this experience I’ve learned that when I react to something, especially in situations where there has been a long and constant buildup of frustration, to first take a breath and slow myself down. Then assess the reaction, point out the trigger point, understand why I reacted and eventually look at how to prevent a buildup of frustration in similar situations in the future. Although it is the other party that was not performing as agreed, it is not to me to blame them but to give feedback while pointing out the terms of our mutual agreements, leaving the other enough space to take their responsibilities.