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We were on a break.

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Ever had a conversation with someone, walk away feeling ok about it, but then a week (or a month or a year. . .) later discover that the other person walked away hurt or angry or confused (or had a totally different idea of what ‘on a break’ means)? 

Yeah, me too.

Sometimes, it’s because I wasn’t clear or was going too fast or wasn’t focused on the person as I was talking.  Sometimes it’s because I was not being my best self.  In all of those cases, all I can do is apologize and try to not beat myself up for my mistakes.  (Here’s one of my favorite blogs about how, and why, to forgive yourself.)

Other times, it’s not about me at all.  When I hear a snippy remark (e.g., “you think you’re so smart, don’t you?”), or get an earful from someone about something that I have done wrong, the tone and message of the speaker says a lot.  People can be jerks, they can have bad days, and sometimes they just lash out for who-knows-what reason.  (Here’s a great article on how to deal with jerks.)  

I don’t deny it’s frustrating, but treating their reaction as one point of data for you to deal with (rather than a summary statement of your – or their - worth as a human) can help. The opportunity is in the discussion of why your friend/colleague/client felt the anger or hurt or confusion in the first place.  Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Consider their perspective, and weigh their insights against all the other data you have (how others respond, for example) It’ll help you figure out what’s yours to own (and hopefully mend) and what you can filter out so as to not get distracted.