Tone and delivery can turn what was meant to be sarcastically funny, into an insult inadvertently.
I am so glad I’m old…I mean mature. (To be “AARP-politically-correct”).
Being mature allows me to really stop and listen to people and really hear what they have to say and not react in a negative way if it’s a disagreement or constructive criticism.
Being gray and long in the tooth gives me the confidence to not get offended…to not really care what people think of me…but truly care that I hear what they are saying to me.
Recently, I was with some really good friends when I made an off-handed remark in jest about one of them being such a control freak and “schedulina” that had he been with us at a bad hotel while on vacation, he would have forced us all to move to another location immediately.
Well…to my utter surprise, my friend went off on me (while I was driving a car and in the company of other friends) and his response went like this…
“George, I really take offense to your comment and I am tired of you implying that I take over situations and become a control freak!”
After I got past the public embarrassment and realized he truly was offended…and after my face lost its flush…I simply said “I’m sorry” and left it at that.
Say I’m sorry…and then be silent.
I allowed crickets in the car. I felt that keeping my eyes on the road, and not looking at my friend, would not help to communicate my contrition and how I didn’t mean to offend him, but it wouldn’t have been safe.
So when we got to our destination, I pulled him aside and told him I was really sorry for offending him said that I loved that he takes charge in most cases because I have been taking charge for most of my life, and the lives of others, and that it is truly refreshing for him to do so while in my company.
So, here’s a nugget of “good communication” advice.
Through the initial embarrassment of being “laid out,” it’s really important that when there is a misunderstanding…stopping and looking in the offended person’s face, and talking goes a hell of a long way when it comes to reinforcing trust.
His response was that it wasn’t what I said, but it was the tone with which I said it. I came across as acerbic, implying he is pushy or annoying (which that is not the case).
Sarcasm can be a slippery slope
You know, it probably was my tone. I probably did come across (because I was looking straight ahead while I was driving) as flippant and nasty. I am usually full of sarcasm and think it’s witty and funny most of the time…but, this time, under the circumstances, it wasn’t the best way to deliver my brand of sarcasm to a friend. It came across as cold without the eye-contact (remember, had I been looking right at him while I was driving, it could have been dangerous)!
Because I’m mature, I accepted his reaction without blowing up at that moment. I told him I was sorry a couple more times, but I think when he heard me say…”Gosh, I see what you mean about the tone and will try to work on it,” he felt better.
Years ago, I probably would have screamed myself right into this dude’s face defending myself that he misheard me or took what I said the wrong way. But, alas, no…he’s a friend I want to keep as a friend, so, instead, I kept my own “pushy” self, calm and collected after his reaction. I also learned a lesson and went down for the count…because I really care for this friend.
So, friends and colleagues, the lesson I’ve learned from this experience is:
BE MINDFUL! YOUR TONE AND YOUR DEMEANOR CARRY A LOT OF WEIGHT IN CONVERSATION.
And, oh…when you apologize, stop there. No buts…no summaries…silence.
CEO, Production Solutions
George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.