In the movie “Father of the Bride” Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, announces to Brian, the groom-to-be, “We come from a long line of major over reactors. Me. I can definitely lose it. My mother… a nut. My grandfather… stories about him are legendary. The good news, however, is that this overreacting tends to get proportionately less by generation, so your kids could be normal.”
Our family loves that movie; it’s a Kay cult classic amongst our family movies and quotable movie lines.
Like George Banks, the Kay bunch tends to be over reactors at times—especially under the pressure of the holidays. But we have hopes that our grandchildren may be normal.
In fact, if you ask my kids what I’m like when I’m upset, they will say that they hate my Texas accent, because it comes out with a flourish and generally not in their favor. Add to that fact that I’m ½ Latina and no one wants to be around me when I lose it. The good news is that I have been working on this issue for years. I don’t like to say I’m an “over reactor.” Instead, I call myself “passionate.” This passion can be a “strength” at times but it sometimes becomes a “weakness” when it serves to miscommunicate my heart or intent.
One of the ways I advise all families, especially military families is to caution them to think before they push “send,” or before they tweet, or post something on Facebook and Instagram. This is especially important when it can come back to haunt you or your military member in a negative way. I know this is hard because I tend to process things by writing them down, but before I hit “send” I do three things:
1) Sit On It—Because I know that when I write in a passion (anger, hurt, indignation) my EQ and IQ go down about 20 points (and I can’t afford to lose any of those points), I wait a few hours or overnight. Then I reread it, edit it and send.
2) Share it with Fresh Eyes—My professional mentor who is a wise and wealthy literary agent, once said, “Ellie, less is more.” I have him, my assistant, or my hubby look at my message with fresh eyes to make sure I’m communicating in the most effective manner. My assistant will often be lovingly blunt, “You sound like a diva” or “Do you REALLY want to say that? You are coming across as too direct and even as cruel.” I don’t have to take every edit, but at least I have the perspective of someone who cares about me and desires me to be reflected in a positive light. They often save me from myself.
3) Scrutinize it—After I’ve had some distance from the passion, I reread it to make sure I’m not hurting someone’s feelings or taking on an unnecessary fight. If I find that I’m more concerned with “the principle” rather than “the person,” then I have to take another look at my motives. If I err, I’d rather err on the side of kindness. My agent’s words, “Less is more” is my guiding grace. After all this, I’ll select send.
Do I always follow my own advice? No, to my great discredit I do not.
Do I regret it when I fail to vet my passionate emails before I send them? Yes, it has cost me friendships, business relationships and even contracts.
So, if you are experiencing the stress of the holidays (or any time of year) and you are tempted to vent via an email or other written communication. I encourage you to take that passion and follow the steps outlined in order to have the best possible outcome for all involved.
I’d like to hear from you. How do you process your passion in the written word?