In which I might be a little oversensitive

First off, yay!  Deadline knitting, completed on deadline and off in the mail today!  This is a good thing, and the natural celebration is that I did not a bit of knitting this evening, merrily ignoring my Christmas knitting obligations.  There will be plenty of time for that tomorrow.  Note:  do not mock me when I’m awake and gibbering at 3 AM on Christmas Eve trying to finish the knitting.

The rest of tonight, as I’ve been puttering around, I’ve been doing some pondering and a good bit of navel gazing.  I had this interaction yesterday that is really making me think.  I had to ask someone a question about some confusing instructions, and the response  I got back was brusque and dismissive, and worded in a way that had strong tones of “If you would just read the instructions, you wouldn’t need to bother me.”  Now, I had read the instructions;  I knew that what I was asking about was not addressed in them and I knew that I was in the right.

It would be entirely normal to be annoyed by an e-mail like that, but my reaction to it was completely over the top.  I was literally so angry and upset that I was shaking. I know I really hate it when someone acts like they think I am stupid, especially in an area where I know I am quite competent, but I was out of my head with fury.

I wrote back a snippy but polite e-mail re-explaining my point and pointing out that it was not in the instructions, and then I posted something about it to Facebook to vent a little.  I got what I wanted out of that – some sympathy, some humor (including a suggestion from one friend that I respond with “You should check to see if your e-mail got hacked, you wouldn’t believe the bullshit someone is sending from your account”, which I loved) and general cheering up.

The funniest thing in doing that though, was that one of the first people to respond to my post is someone who regularly makes me feel like he thinks I’m stupid, saying that anyone who thinks I’m stupid was not worth worrying about.  And that made me think – if this person doesn’t think I’m stupid, yet routinely makes me feel like he does, is it possible that my perception needs to be re-calibrated?  Am I carrying so much baggage that I am seeing slights where none were intended or are people unaware of how their words and actions would be perceived by any reasonable person? I think it’s likely that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless, I probably need to work on easing off my oversized reaction to interactions like yesterday’s.  If nothing else, that kind of fury and rage over a trivial matter cannot be healthy.

Now that I’ve seen the trigger and response and the pattern it creates, I need to figure out how to head the reaction off and find a calmer, healthier way to react.   Something to think about.

In the end, I got back perfectly friendly response to my e-mail recognizing that my point was now understood and I was right, and we had a reasonable conversation.  I was glad I hadn’t unleashed my initial HULK SMASH reaction on this person – that would have been impossible to recover from.  I wonder if I’ll be able to find a way to make it so that SMASH isn’t my automatic reaction.

How do you cope when you have an emotional response that you know on your intellectual side is an outsized overreaction?

2 comments to In which I might be a little oversensitive

  • Shani

    Long, but it may be because whatever it is is violating one of your core values. We have this exercise at work (I’ve done it several times, in trainings, orientations, teambuilding) where, of a stack of 50 cards labelled with traits (Loyalty, Independence, Health, Family, Accuracy, Integrity, and so on) we pick a top 10 to be our core values and a top 3 to talk about and share with the group. the last time I did this, the trainer, Pam, said something so compelling –if you find that you’re having an over the top kind of reaction to a request or project, maybe it’s going straight up against one of your core values.

    You’re a precise, detail oriented person (DISC model would probably call you a High C) and the mere assumption that someone would think you /didn’t/ do your homework before contacting them for help is offensive to you. What do you call that? Thoroughness? Accuracy? Precision? Lots of possibilities, but this is one of your hallmarks, why would someone who works with you frequently not know that, right?

    I don’t think that’s so weird at all. I wonder if there’s some way to do this exercise online, as well. You might get some insight out of it.

  • Jenn

    That does sound like an interesting exercise. I think you are dead on in your assessment – it does bother me a lot when people assume I’ve not done my homework before reaching out. Yesterday, I was working with someone who doesn’t know me, so wouldn’t know that, although I’d like to think my initial request would have made it fairly clear. I think I’ve been so conditioned by other circumstances to be bristly when someone makes that assumption.

    At the same time, getting that upset and stressed out over something not all that important can not possibly be healthy, so I would probably do well to find was to temper my reaction.

    I’ve never heard of this DISC model assessment either – it also looks like something that would be an interesting exercise. You’re so lucky to work for a company that actually works to help its employees improve, despite their other wackiness.