Have you ever wanted to “tell someone off”? They are wrong, you are right and you’re not going to let them get away with anything. Right? After all, we’re told to tell the truth and stand up for yourself!
Wait! Before spouting off, it can be good to PAUSE.
Alyson is a smart businesswoman in a male-dominated industry. For a long time she was in a successful partnership with, let’s call him Alan. Alyson and Alan made money for everyone until… it all fell apart. According to her contract, Alyson was entitled to terminate the partnership. She could continue to receive financial returns from deals she’d negotiated.
At first Alan balked, and then reluctantly consented to honor their agreement with regular payments. That lasted a short while before he started accusing her of all sorts of things she’d never done.
Alyson is in an industry that gets media attention, and a part of her desperately wanted to go public with the whole thing. I hate thinking people are going to believe what he’s saying about me,she told me. If they knew the truth about him, he would lose all those contracts I negotiated on his behalf. It’s been awful having to hold my tongue!
But in spite of her frustration and her partner’s failure to comply, Alyson did hold her tongue. Why?
Because she stayed super clear about her outcome: Get my fair share of money from the contracts I negotiated.
In order to reach that goal, she had to forgo the emotional pleasure of proving herself right.
Going to the media, letting the world know how wrong someone is and, especially: “telling someone off”, can be so satisfying… in the moment. But the cost of that momentary satisfaction may be far more than it’s worth in the big picture.
Do you remember the movie A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise? Cruise’s character is a bright, young navy lawyer with a refined pedigree. Nicholson’s character is a marine commander in charge of troops in a forward area. One of the men in Nicholson’s command dies because he was given a “Code Red”, an unauthorized punishment, because he was not up to Nicholson’s standards.
The young marines who gave the Code Red are court martialed. Nicholson is on the stand testifying that he would never order a Code Red. You can tell Nicholson’s character hates Cruise’s character. He condescends to him for not being as seasoned, in life or in battle. When Cruise questions Nicholson’s ability to control his troops, Nicholson’s agitation grows. Cruise keeps at him until Nicholson reaches the point where he cannot contain himself. He “tells off” the young, untested, strutting Navy lawyer. Afterwards, he glows with a sense of triumph and satisfaction. What a moment, what a victory! But in the next moment? The judge orders Nicholson’s character to be escorted out by military police.
As the audience, we are left breathless by the release of tension, even awed by the ring of truth to Nicholson’s words, and then shocked that he, in effect convicted himself.
That’s exactly what we do when we “tell someone off”.
So when you feel compelled to “tell someone off”, PAUSE, ASK:
- What is my REAL outcome here?
- Will telling them off help me achieve my outcome?
- Is achieving my real outcome [the result that serves my real interest] worth giving up the moment of satisfaction the “tell off” will give me?
I’d love to hear from you about your experience! Most of us have at some point sacrificed our real goal for the immediate high of telling someone off. I have. Have you? Or if you’ve stayed true to your REAL goals, let us know that, too. What helped you see that through?
Until next Tuesday, YIPPEE!