Take Charge of Your Thoughts

Apr 22, 2024
The VA Connection: Take Charge of Your Thoughts

Last Thursday morning began with a nasty text message. It came from our new cell phone service provider’s store manager, Jim, in response to a message I sent him. (I won’t name names, but the new carrier's name rhymes with Horizon.)

When my husband, Greg, and I relocated to Virginia, we discovered that AT&T didn’t have the coverage we needed to use our phones at home, so we decided to make the switch.

Our migration to the new carrier wasn’t a good experience. We had many conversations with Jim over the course of the week it took to get everything set up and working.

I received an email that morning indicating that Greg’s account wasn’t set up correctly.

I texted Jim a screenshot of the email and asked, “Can you fix this, please?”

Based on his response, I’m pretty sure he didn’t read it as I had intended, which was in a pleasant voice.

His reply was sharp, but I sent another message, asking further about the email I received, not responding to his rudeness.

We exchanged texts for a few minutes, and I could tell Jim’s feelings were escalating. In his final text, he told me that he didn’t appreciate how I spoke to him.

But here’s the deal. I wasn’t actually speaking to him. He was reading my words, choosing my voice's tone, and interpreting my words.

Think about how many ways you could hear: “Can you fix this, please?” About a million: Nice, snarky, demanding, condescending, sarcastic, sincere, enthusiastic, friendly…

Jim was the one who decided the tone, not me. And the rest of his day likely didn’t go well. I’m sure the conversation in his head didn’t stop when our last message was sent. We were probably speaking all day long.

How do I know this? Because this used to be me until I decided to take charge of the voice in my head. One day, I got tired of the scolding, second-guessing, put-downs, and negative conversations with people who weren’t even in the room.

As a Virtual Assistant who’s worked with hundreds of clients and interacted with thousands of people, I have learned that the best strategy for reading texts and emails is to read them in my nicest, most pleasant voice.

When people forget the please and thank yous, I add them in myself. Then I tell myself they must be really busy or stressed, and they were just so grateful to have me helping them that they forgot.

It makes me feel good to do this, and I get to skip the alternative, which is to ruminate on the conversation, feeling put down and unhappy, which leads to time-wasting and an unproductive day.

That morning, I decided that Jim was not going to run my day. I had plans that I was looking forward to and things I wanted to do that mattered to me. I let go of the conversation and moved on.

You can do this, too—one conversation at a time.


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