I was born with a “hair trigger”.
My mother even tagged me in one of those Facebook shares this week that said, “Don’t get me started. I don’t come with brakes.” Sad, but true. I get myself into more stupid shit just because I can’t mind my own business. I have broken up domestic disputes between strangers in Walmart, physically confronted a red-neck threatening some middle school boys in a bowling alley, and put a guy back in his car who was being confrontational with an older woman during a 5k race because he was pissed off that the traffic pattern alteration inconvenienced him. That one really pissed me off because I missed my PR as a result.
If I thought for half a second before I went off half-cocked, I might realize that one of these days, I’m going to jump into a situation where the other party is ACTUALLY armed. But like the Fall Out Boy song goes, “We’re going down, down in an earlier round. Sugar we’re going down swinging.”
Those that know me well tease me because after ripping a witness to shreds, making someone cry, or proving someone wrong, I will slink back within hours to apologize. Even if I am completely justified in my former actions. I can’t walk away without trying to “fix it”.
So this week, I learned an important lesson from a colleague. As we were waiting for cases to be called in court, I was checking emails and got one from a client that torqued me off. So, I started speed typing away on my smart phone, giving immediate feedback to the question. The other attorney, a bit more “seasoned” than me, asked what I was doing. When I told him, he said, “You are breaking a cardinal rule.” What rule is that? “You’re supposed to wait 4 hours before responding to any client email, idiot.” Of course, I asked why. “By the time they get the response, they may have had time to figure it out on their own … and you will be calmer when you respond.”
A reactionary in every aspect of life, I have sought to apply the “4 hour rule” in my daily life. That text that pissed me off … just wait 4 hours. That expletive-ridden telephone call from the attorney suggesting that I needed to perform sexual self-gratification … just wait 4 hours. That hurtful remark that made me want to lash out … just wait 4 hours.
James, “Old Camel Knees” from the Bible said this:
Yipes! What I have learned is that during those 4 hours, I have time to put myself in the shoes of that other person, to consider what circumstances that person might be dealing with, and time to frame a more appropriate response that doesn’t require an apology later. In most cases, that other person isn’t going to “learn a lesson” from my intervention, anyway. But maybe, just maybe, by giving them 4 hours of space, they will have had time to think about the situation and learn something about their self, too.