You Know What Happens When You Assume . . .

*Intro: I wrote this initially for work. It did not end up getting used, but I still think it’s worth sharing. So here it is – pretty formal sounding because it’s intact the way I wrote it for its original purpose.*

I am privileged to be part of the editing team for Immerse Journal. It is a lot of fun getting to help shape these articles for youth workers that push the envelope and provoke thought and discussion among communities of leaders.

Recently, though, we had sort of a debacle that was the unfortunate result of some miscommunication between the editorial staff and one of our potential authors.

On the author’s side of things, the sentiment was that the article had been edited poorly and had removed the author’s voice and style and pretty much everything that made the article belong to the author. On my part of the editorial side, I was confused by my perception that this author was upset by a couple of grammatical corrections. (What I didn’t know at the time was that I never saw the author’s original article.)

I ended up sending a formal and somewhat stuffy email to this author, explaining that the edits (not knowing there were larger edits at stake) were nonnegotiable. The author, feeling like he wasn’t being heard or respected, replied with a short, succinct email explaining that he was pulling his article altogether.

I left the conversation assuming the author was egotistical, pompous, pretentious. I am sure he left the conversation feeling like Immerse was being run by a bunch of unreasonable, impersonal, corporate snobs.

Two weeks later, I found myself in the same room as this particular author in a relaxed social setting, completely apart from and unrelated to the office or Immerse in any way. A friend of mine who knows us both said to me, “Have you met {So-and-So} yet?”

I answered no, and my friend dragged this author over to me and made the introductions.

Funny thing is, we initially looked at each other sheepishly. What I saw was a young, friendly-looking guy fairly close to my age. Nothing egotistical, pompous, or pretentious about him. I guess I can’t answer for what he saw when he looked at me, but judging by his friendly smile and warm handshake, I am guessing something similar.

The first words out of both of our mouths began with, “I’m sorry…” And from there, we sorted out the complications and miscommunications and were able to see each other as human beings.

I walked away from that encounter with feelings of relief and redemption as well as guilt and shame. I was relieved to know the author wasn’t a jerk. I felt redeemed by his gracious acceptance of my humanness, my flawed-ness. I felt guilty and shameful for having assigned negative attributes to a faceless person whose story I didn’t know.

In our dealings with those around us, even (maybe especially) in disagreements, may we all tread with caution and an awareness that we are all humans, all in this together, all participating in individual stories as well as a larger story. And may grace never be in short supply.

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4 Comments

Filed under bloggy, sentimental, the industry

4 responses to “You Know What Happens When You Assume . . .

  1. This is one downfall with the cyber world of communication. Words on a screen lack the voice inflection and emotional inflection that help us communicate. A sentence can be read several ways depending on the author’s intent and the reader’s interpretation.

    Great share and great lesson. How come they didn’t publish this?

    • So true. That’s why emoticons are so important! It didn’t get used because they decided it just wasn’t the type of thing they were looking for. It wasn’t articulated to me exactly why that was. I’m not sure they could articulate it if they tried. Sometimes it is pretty abstract the type of thing they want, and I just have to guess. I submitted a different post today, so we’ll see if that one takes!

  2. Reese

    You’re definitely right. It’s hard (for me at least) to fully express myself over email, mostly because my sarcasm and quick wit don’t shine through like they do in person ;) I often find myself on the defensive when someone writes me an email and sounds stuffy, but talking about it over the phone or (even better) in person can usually resolve the issue, like you found out. That is, in short, why I hate texts.

    • Again, true. It’s really easy to get defensive over email. But at the same time, it’s also really easy to be rude over email and anywhere else in the cyber world because you’re dealing with a screen and a name, rather than a face and a personality.

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