I had a great day yesterday. I had some meetings that went well. I heard from the guy I’d asked to write the foreword to Agile and Lean Program Management. He said yes, and wrote a terrific foreword.
Then, I received an email with the edits from an editor for an online magazine.
When I write, I check for passive voice and remove it. I work to make my writing easy to read. I like it when you agree with me. It’s okay with me if you don’t agree with me—as long as you understand what I wrote.
Well, you might be able to understand what I tried to say in the edited article, but since I had trouble—and I was the writer—I am pretty sure you would have trouble, too.
I could feel my face getting red. I could feel my blood pressure rise. I felt as if I could hear my heartbeat in my ear (Note 1). I was angry, angrier than I have been in ages. I can’t remember the last time I was that angry.
I decided to do something useful instead of responding or eating chocolate. It was raining, so I took an inside walk for 8 minutes. Then, I had more water and a low carb brownie. (Yes, the chocolate helped!) These things are the first step in emotional resilience.
I also asked for help. I asked other people to read the edited version to see if I was nuts. No, I wasn’t nuts. The problem solving was my second step in emotional resilience.
I also realized today that my anger was about my values, not this specific problem. It took me more than 12 hours to realize that. When I have a problem that violates my personal values, I have to separate the situation from my feelings about the situation. (In software, we call this “going meta.” That’s the third step in emotional resilience.
We have strong emotions for all kinds of reasons. I realize now that I become angry when the situation violates my values.
I have values for my writing starting with clarity. I have values for my driving, starting with safety. I have values for project management, starting with the fact each project is unique, so we should think.
For me, the more I feel as if my values are at risk, the stronger my emotion. I have encountered this editing problem four times before with this editor. We are not communicating well, are we? I will have to work on that.
What surprised me most is this: yes, I am angry about the editing. I am angrier with this other person not hearing my feedback the first four times. And, I bet the problem is mostly on my side. I did not remind him of my preferences when I sent him the article. I know how he works, and I thought he would remember my preferences. Kind of arrogant of me, isn’t it? I am angry with myself, too.
My strong emotions, such as anger, do not have a single cause. That surprised me a little, at first. On reflection, it makes sense. I might feel as if I’m angry at the other person. Then, I realize it’s much more about me. Oh, being human is so interesting…
Dear adaptable problem-solvers, that is the question of the week: What does your anger reflect?
Note 1: That’s a little deaf joke. One ear, get it? Okay, I thought it was funny when I calmed down.