Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Lately a lot of people from a certain organization have been calling to yell at me about something I wrote. At first it really upset me, because they were 5 percent correct. Had they been totally wrong, I would have been indignant, but not upset. But I like to think that I'm mature enough to listen to people's criticism of my work and carefully consider whether they have a point. In this case they had a point. So I apologized for those actions which were indeed mistakes, took responsibility, and explained how the rest of their complaints were based on incorrect assumptions. Each person, in the end, so far, has ended the conversation understanding my viewpoint and being able to move on (at least, that's what they said, and it sounded sincere. One of them even proceeded to give me a story tip).

I think a piece of this is that I've learned that when someone is angry at me, it's best to let them finish whatever they have to say. I let them get it all out, without interrupting them. Just the act of my waiting patiently until they finish diffuses most of their anger, I've noticed. People get angry, and they need to express it to its object, and once they've done so a lot of it goes away before I've said a word. This is something I've just figured out in the last few days and I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to do this instead of getting defensive.

The other thing I've learned in the last few days is how not to get "sucked in" to other people's issues. If the source of their anger turns out to be connected to something that has nothing to do with me, well, they can tell me all about it, and I'll freely (and sincerely) express regret that something I did has become a piece of their problem, but I simply do not take responsibility for things that are out of my control. Interestingly, I find that people respect this.

Anger is a really interesting emotion.

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