I wrote an email yesterday that I didn't want to have to write. After three weeks of back and forth with someone I hoped to hire for a project, her most recent response was a total bait-and-switch. Her proposal and the manner in which she delivered it was unprofessional and I felt the need to tell her so.
I worded the email very carefully as not to unnecessarily hurt her feelings while still expressing myself honestly. I wanted to offer her feedback that I thought could really help her in the future, but I didn't want to be cruel. Even after I finished it and triple-checked for its tact, I still considered not sending it at all. What was it really going to accomplish? It wouldn't undo the past or change the future. It wouldn't get me what I needed, and I wasn't sure it was what she needed.
In the end I sent it because I thought not sending it was worse. The alternative was to blow her off entirely, make up some lie, or agree to her terms that felt wrong to me -- which definitely would produce a worse outcome. But after I hit send, I felt like crap at the idea of ruining someone's day.
She replied shortly after, recognizing the validity of what I had said and explaining her reasoning for her actions. She didn't seem to be phased by what I had written and also didn't seem to be phased at the idea that she wouldn't be getting my business. Her understanding and acceptance of the situation she created validated my decision to tell her how I really felt, while her lack of hurt feelings validated my considerate approach.
If I hadn't written that email mindfully and compassionately, things could've gone a different way. Maybe I could've been another Kelly Blazek, Cleveland's "Communicator of the Year" who blasted an up-and-comer Diana Mekota for her unsolicited request in a callous email that has since gone viral when Mekota posted it online.
Blazek's intention was to give feedback on an approach she considered poor judgment. Instead she demonstrated her own poor judgment when she let her emotions get the best of her.
"You are quite young and green on how business connections work," Blazek wrote. That may be true, but name-calling never helps. Mekota knows she's young and knows she's less experienced than Blazek, which is why she reached out to her in the first place. "In my experience, it's best to meet someone in person before making this sort of request" might have been the sort of feedback that actually helped Mekota improve her networking skills while taking her feelings into account.
" ...a total stranger who has nothing to offer me." Is that even true? Every single one of us can benefit from the innocence of youth just as much as the wisdom of elders. One thing Mekota had to offer her was a lesson in the power of social media. "Unfortunately many people have taken advantage of my resources while offering me nothing in return. Perhaps we can find a way for you to help me with this project," might have been a better tack.
Blazek's words were filled with sarcasm. "I love the sense of entitlement in your generation. And therefore I enjoy Denying your invite." Painting her with a broad brush, and a negative one at that, demonstrates Blazek's lack of empathy for Mekota's unique situation and uniqueness as a human being. Whatever bad experiences she may have had with people in Mekota's age bracket has little to do with Mekota herself.
We start to get a bit of insight into what's really going on with Blazek when she writes, "I suggest you join the other Job Bank in town. Oh wait -- there isn't one." She has worked hard to build this list, she has worked hard for these connections, and part of her feels exploited by Mekota's request. She's hurt. And instead of centering herself and being mindful of her word choice in return, she wants to cause the pain she was caused.
"You're welcome for your humility lesson for the year." Little did Blazek know when she wrote those words just how true they would become. Through her own inflated sense of self and disregard for another, we all learned a lesson in the importance of kindness and respect.
No one expects you to be a doormat, but there's no need to be a matador instead.
Follow Whitney Hess on Twitter: www.twitter.com/whitneyhess