The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook


In response to a perceived slight or misdemeanour, how often is a point too quickly made, an email sent, a sharp glance thrown, only later to be thought better of?

Distinguishing between comments or actions from other people that could be allowed to pass without response, and which we should respond to, is a valuable skill.

That doesn’t mean stop communicating with them, it just might mean ignoring an offending comment or action.

Sometimes the intent behind another person’s comment or action may (i) be open to different interpretations (e.g. it may be serious, sarcastic, or humorous) (ii) indeed be quite serious, but maybe they are defensive, embarrassed, ashamed or nervous and they may later regret it and/or apologise. Maybe it is as a result of something said or done to them. Could cutting them some slack be a good thing sometimes? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s the skill bit.

In response to an action or words that we find unacceptable, is it worth holding off sending that email, putting it in the draft folder for a day or two to allow time to consider if it is something that is important to send?

Initial human initial reactions are often emotive. Stepping back to take a rational objective view can have great benefits… this might be particularly true of texts and emails, and may be because there aren’t ‘real people’ interfaces, just a phone or computer screen. So it is possible to think that maybe the impact is lower, when it can in reality be more extreme. And in any case intent may be misunderstood.

As a corollary, there are few reliable statistics yet, but there is some experiential evidence that difficult situations arise in texting and on social media that would not have done face to face or even by telephone. e.g. this piece and experiment on emoticons:

(quote after W James)

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