The “I’ll Do To You Before You Do To Me” Disease

Sometimes actions, words or events can be misinterpreted. Yes, I know, that’s a newsflash. Stay with me, I’ll get to my point…eventually. So something you do is misunderstood and then new meaning is placed on it and actions are based upon it. Before you know it you are in a completely different zip code from which you started and you are all alone.

Then the motor goes into overdrive. If this action or statement means this, then it probably will lead to something bad happening to me. I.e.: she/he is going to break up/cheat/pick your poison or I am going to be laid off/fired. And we reach the city of Panic. The welcoming sign says, “If You Are Going To Do That To Me, Then I Will Terminate The Relationship Before Anything Bad Can Happen To Me.” Crazy little world our minds travel through.

Before you fill up for gas for your little adventure I implore you to STOP! I do not know why but I think there is an epidemic of leaping to the worst possible conclusions. It is a plague, it is contagious, it is dangerous and it is self-destructive. Let’s just all take a breath and stop, drop and roll – no wait, wrong directions…stop, breath and relax.

Take a moment to consider the possibility that you are interpreting something incorrectly. Then, instead of taking the easy tour of destruction in your mind, do something really hard: ask. Actually have a conversation, tell the person that this is how you interpreted the action/words and ask if it is correct.

Sometimes we get to the point that there is no return, you know you are there when you can no longer look at the person in question. Anger or you are afraid that they will see your fear – whatever it is, we start avoiding eye contact.

So before you get to that point, just ask. It’s not that hard to do. When I coach interviewing skills I always tell my clients if they are not sure about how to answer a question, ask the interviewer for clarification. “This is what I believe you are asking me to explain, am I correct?” One little clarifying question can save a lot of time and possibly secure that position. Just ask.

I read a fabulous book this weekend and the character quoted his dad as saying one ugly truth hurts less than a thousand pretty lies. It fits here, in a way. One moment of embarrassment in asking is worth a thousand self-destructive thoughts. These thoughts, by the way, lead to self-destructive action. So, take a breath, ask to get clarification and save your gas, money and time.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

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