I thought long and hard before I decided to share this experience. Ironically, I’ve recently uncovered that Integrity, Insight and Fairness are some of my most important values, the exact things that was brought into question during this incident.  I’m therefore sharing this experience with the sole intent that someone might learn from my journey. 

Sometimes lessons are learnt from the mistakes you make, sometimes it’s not your own mistakes that you learn from.

While communicating with a potential client via email things went very wrong.

I’ve truly never been so completely misunderstood while actually agreeing with a person.

I work with people from all walks of life, from various countries, cultures and languages and have in the past adapted to each one’s personal need and requirements on a one to one basis. Being asked for a quote by a person from a corporate environment I replied in a language with vocabulary that I thought would be professional and clear.

Apparently not.

 Apparently, my detailed reply was understood in a way that made the person feel as if I’m now seeing the big bucks and this made that person feel that I was taking advantage.

Many years ago, I worked with a Boss who used to say: “Assumption is the Mother of all f*%#$! Ups” This was never truer than in this situation. I assumed a professional response was what was expected. The person assumed because I gave such a response I was after a bigger contract and not prepared to understand exactly what the need was.

It took me a while to unpack all this and that in itself was a journey.

At first, I was shocked.

I couldn’t believe the violent response. I thought I must have misread the reply, so I read it again. Nope, the person definitely blew up.

Then I got scared.

 Adrenalin pumped, fight or flight mode kicked in while I was sitting safely in front of my computer. My heart pounding in my chest, palms sweating, short panic breaths. Just like when you’ve got a guest screaming at you about something that is completely out of your control.  I really don’t like that kind of conflict!

I carefully read through all the correspondence again and realised that if I’d just changed 1 sentence slightly the person would have seen without any doubt that I was actually agreeing with everything being said. 

Then I got angry. 

Having my integrity pulled into question was completely unfair – Two things that instantly make me furious. I would like to think that if I saw that a person was misunderstanding me through a clinical medium like an email, I would make personal contact to see if we could understand each other better.

Then I got sad.

We all need money and to have this blow up because of a misunderstanding nearly broke my heart.

So, here are the lessons I learnt:

  1. Listen very carefully and acknowledge what they are saying. We all want to be heard and understood.
  2. Answer questions in the simplest terms so that there cannot be confusion as to your intent. If they want more details, you can chat in person or ask specific questions.
  3. Be true to yourself. Keep your reply as professional as possible but don’t hesitate to let your personality shine through.
  4. Don’t fly off the handle unless you are very sure of the situation. Assumptions can cause so much heartache and not only for the people directly involved.
  5. In such a situation, take a step back and look honestly and objectively at your own response. If you can’t, ask someone to help do that while you work through your own emotions.
  6. Learn from your actions and their consequences. Don’t let it cripple you with doubt or a sense of incompetence in the future. Easier said than done but an important step in your own personal growth.
  7. Sometimes people might just be having a crappy day … and nothing you say or do can or will make a difference.

I lost this opportunity. But I’ve learnt and realised that these are the next steps in my journey. I’m working through being hurt, sad, cross, disappointment but it’s been a good reminder not to make assumptions…

 …and for me to be my authentic self.