Take a step back to better understand a situation

When the world seems to be spinning at top speed, I need to pay extra attention to communication.  Not only in the way that I communicate, but to listen carefully and intuitively to how other people are (or are not) communicating. Effective communication means that everyone is on the same page…and is happy to be there.

Life doesn’t always run like clockwork, and today was no exception…

I looked forward to joining a colleague to present our copywriting and content strategy services to a potential new client.  He and I felt ready and confident.  Then just a few hours before our meeting, we received an update that our contact at the company needed to cancel the appointment.  The brief explanation was that she was working at home today and attending to some personal activities.

Of course we felt disappointed. I had arranged my schedule to go on this particular day and we had prepared a presentation.  It seemed unfair because the person had asked to meet us and we wondered why she did not give more advance notice about cancelling our meeting.

I realized how unproductive my train of thought was

I took a step back and re-framed the situation. There were a lot of ‘unknowns’ about why the person could have made this decision – things that, very likely, had nothing to do with me personally.  This moment of awareness opened my mind to feelings of empathy.

  • Perhaps this person, or someone else (a child, partner, parent…), was not feeling well
  • If the person was feeling distracted (a stressful deadline on a project, dealing with unexpected problems, etc.) it might not have been the ideal time to present our services
  • This person may not have strong communication or planning skills. That’s my expertise, so when we re-schedule the appointment, I can propose solutions to help.

By taking a step back to see a situation from the other person’s point of view, my feelings of irritation rapidly diminished.  Do I still wish that the person hadn’t cancelled the meeting? Yes, of course – but now I had extra time in my schedule so I turned my attention to more productive activities. That includes writing about my experience here – and maybe it can offer useful insights to share with other people, like yourself?

The next time you’re faced with unexpected changes or confusing communication with someone, try this idea of taking a step back.  It can help you to become a more peaceful person and to jump-start better relationships with others.

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.”
― Bob Dylan