They Had No Right to Be Upset with Me! And they weren’t

 In Communication, Negative emotions, Relationships

DARN! My paperwork for the project was due yesterday. I had been busy with other stuff and had never finished it. Now, here was an email from the team leader asking me when I was going to submit it.

I didn’t like being late. My mind instantly went into defense mode. But I had other stuff to do, too! Why did it matter if I turned it in yesterday or today? I bet I wouldn’t be the only one who missed a deadline in this project. 

I could feel some tightness in my body as my thoughts built momentum. I was a hard worker and a good employee. They should be happy that I’m on this project. They had no right to be upset with me! 

Has something like this ever happened to you? You anticipate someone might be upset with you and your mind quickly gets ready for battle?

Luckily, I didn’t email the team leader back right away. I finished my paperwork and sent it with a brief comment saying I was sorry I was late. Their email back simply said, “Thanks!” The next time I saw them everything seemed fine. I had put myself through all that anxiety for nothing.

This happened years ago, before I’d ever heard of Positive Psychology and learned that this is an instinctive reaction. But I was reminded of it because something similar happened yesterday with my husband. In the morning, he had asked if I could help him cut up trees for our wood-burning stove later that day. I totally forgot and was busy with my own stuff. When he came in the house to ask if I had time to help, I was on the phone. As he left, I started to imagine that he must be upset with me. I had let him down. The excuses and defensiveness began to bubble up.

Then I caught myself; I didn’t know what he was thinking. I was jumping to the worst conclusion and making up a story of how he felt. I paused, noticed my thoughts, and told myself to stay calm and not worry. I walked down to the woodpile, and instead of being defensive, I pleasantly asked how things were going. Everything was good.

Can you remember a time when you jumped to the worst conclusion about what someone else was thinking about you? Next time remind yourself that we’re wired to jump to the worst conclusion and try to stay calm before you check in with them.

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