Recently, someone close to me sent me an email that pushed a hot button. Without going into details, I had been trying to ignore a perceived slight for a couple of months, and this message poked that spot, proving that despite my valiant effort, it still festered. I responded immediately (with some restraint, I thought) and received a conciliatory message in return. I read it quickly, already formulating a follow-up missive in my head.

I wrote and sent that last message, most of which appropriately concerned logistics and possibilities. I couldn’t leave the sore spot alone, though, and I tacked on a couple of sentences to address it. I figured it was better to get it out in the open than to continue to let it fester. Done and over, case closed.

Or so I thought.

Today I re-read the response that had prompted my last message. To my surprise and humiliation, I realized it didn’t quite say what I thought it had. My clouded brain had inserted the word “not” where it didn’t exist, and as you can imagine, that completely changed how I had understood the message. Oh, boy.

While this particular situation isn’t epically important in the grand scheme of things, I still feel pretty sheepish.  For someone to whom words DO matter, it is particularly humbling to fall into this common trap. I read what I wanted to read in that message, not what was really there. I forgot that it’s not just the words I put out that matter, but also the ones I take in. I violated the most basic rule–listen (read) carefully–and as a result, needlessly perpetuated a situation that existed primarily in my own head. Sheesh. Time for an apology.

Today’s lesson: when you think you’re right, slow down and take another look. Maybe you’re not.

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