I offended a friend of mine yesterday. I said something – in an email – that was misinterpreted. I didn’t mean for my words to be hurtful or painful. Despite my intent, my friend was offended. When I found out, I felt horribly. I immediately apologized while trying to explain what was misunderstood.
Email is dangerous when there’s no context or tone. Sometimes our words are not received in the same manner in which they’re sent.
It’s unfortunate. And it happens all the time.
How many times have you seen Facebook posts and comments turn incendiary before your eyes? Arguments can quickly break out when one person appears to be offended by a remark you find tame. Perception is reality. If words are perceived as hurtful, then they are hurtful TO THAT PERSON, regardless of intent.
“Consider the source” has long been a phrase I’ve tried to apply in my life in these types of situations. When I am offended by someone, when I’m contemplating whether I am jumping to a wrong conclusion, when I hear a rumor that seems unreal, when I hear a story about someone that seems to go against their character which I know personally, I try to take a pause and say to myself, “consider the source.”
I ask myself: In my experience with this particular person or situation, is this normal? Is this the kind of person that this one is? Does this person normally offend me? Have I jumped to wrong conclusions before? Does this rumor line up with what I know about this person? Does this person usually have my back? Is this person often in my corner? Is this generaIly a good person who does not try to harm me?
Considering the source is about giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
Too often we are ready to vilify someone, or pass judgment on them, before we have all the facts.
I remember getting an email from a boss one time questioning if I had shared company secrets with “the competition.” Someone had told the boss that I did this. Of course, it was not true. It all ended up being a miscommunication.
I wish my boss had considered the source. I have never shared company secrets in the past. I am not the kind of person who stirs up trouble. In fact, when I responded to the accusation with, “No way, I did not do that,” the response back to me was, “Well, I didn’t think that you would.”
Ok… the boss did consider the source… but still chose to assume the worst.
When your husband leaves his socks on the floor (one of your biggest pet peeves), do you get angry and full of rage by convincing yourself he’s doing it just to tick you off? Or do you “consider the source?” Is he just a messy person, maybe absent minded, who often forgets to pick up his socks from the floor?
If he is the kind of person who does things with the sole intent of ticking you off, you probably need to seek marriage counseling instead of reading this blog.
There are countless opportunities in life to be offended, to choose anger, and to feel indignant over what we deserve or don’t deserve. It’s easy to assume the stranger who cut you off on I-4 did it on purpose. But what about your friends? What about your family? What about people you love and who love you?
Maybe the other person really is at fault. Maybe they did offend you purposefully. But maybe the hurt you are feeling is coming from within you. Maybe the way you’re receiving the message isn’t the way the message was sent.
The next time your ego is bruised over the actions or words of a loved one, before getting upset, why not step back and “consider the source?” It just might give you a fresh perspective and maybe save you from unnecessary (and possibly misplaced) hurt feelings.