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Send, Share or Shutup?

Ever had one of those occasions where you felt inspired to write something — maybe it was an email or a social media post and then right before (or even worse, right after) you hit send you began second-guessing yourself?

Should I have shared that?

Maybe that was too personal to include in professional correspondence.

Phew! I thought it was just me. Then earlier this week, I received a message from a colleague who had been “shamed” by a friend for something they had posted. It was one of those, “Oh no you didn’t” messages about a post that made a “business point” and also integrated a “personal story” that was happening in real life. The friend wrote insisting they take down the post claiming it wasn’t appropriate. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, those kinds of “let me help you with that, you idiot” messages trigger an avalanche of shame.

Obviously, it did for my friend, because they reached out to see if others thought they had crossed the line.

Little did my friend know their inquiry would trigger this post.

This whole idea of whether or not something is fitting for professional correspondence reared its head in sinister fashion in the course of “ordinary conversation” just two weeks ago. Let me illustrate with a personal example from a real-life story. The names have NOT been changed to add to the credibility and veracity of the story. (Of course, I did request and obtain permission from the two people involved.)

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Renée Smith who leads the Make Work More Human Project for the State of Washington. Renee was attending the LEI Lean Summit in Houston and asked if I could help facilitate an introduction to Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Chief Joy Officer and Joy, Inc. Both have been guests on the Higher Purpose Podcast and have become personal friends. Of course, I agreed. I sent an introductory email, and the two of them began exploring schedules and logistics which were going to be tricky because Rich was balancing other commitments and only at the Summit for a short period. The stars aligned and their schedules worked out for a meeting. This breakfast meeting came together pretty quickly.

If you know me, you know I love levity and have a dry wit sense of humor. Moreover, by this time in life, I have come to understand my humor is not always appreciated, but it’s me. It’s who I am.

There I was watching this wonderful meeting come together in a matter of minutes and against a few odds. Suddenly, I found myself typing this email without thinking about it at all.  To quote the illustrious and fictional Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.

As I was about to hit send, it happened.

That voice…”DON’T SEND THAT, WHAT WILL THEY THINK? THAT’S NOT A VERY PROFESSIONAL OR BUSINESS-LIKE EMAIL.” Suddenly, I felt like I was back in Mrs. Taylor’s 4th-grade science class being disciplined for making a funny at an inappropriate time. Or maybe, it one of those times when I said something out loud in staff meetings at AT&T that the VP preferred I kept to myself. It was the voice of SHAME and SHOULD. Maybe you know it. I know it. All. Too. Well.

Of course, it is possible that you are a much more evolved and intelligent person than me and you never struggle with stuff like this and are judging me at this very moment for writing this post.

[And lest you think this occupied an entire afternoon — wrong. ALL of this occurred in milliseconds.]

I started deleting the text and thinking of a more proper response, and suddenly, I was like NO! Not going to do that. I heard the words of my dear friend and mentor, Hildy Gottlieb saying; “Kevin, someone needs to kick the SHOULD out of you.” Instantly, I hit CMD+Z to replace the text and hit send and forgot about it. Then, what happened next began illuminating the LIGHT BULBS and unlocking LEARNING MOMENTS. Almost immediately, Rich responded with “Love that quote … loved the A-team! :-)”

Renée was busy teaching her workshop at the Summit. Several hours later she responded, “Ha! That was my colleague’s favorite saying and I can’t read it without hearing his super positive personality come through! :)”

WOW! A eureka moment.

This wholly human and personal comment brought back fond memories to both Rich and Renée.

Well, for some reason, I couldn’t leave it alone. I was now free to share the struggle and insights from this simple email exchange. I wrote back, “I almost censored myself from sending that email — seriously, I thought about it before hitting send. That’s too corny, unprofessional, or whatever…and look at this — it tapped happy memories for all of us. There’s a lesson there for me.” Rich responded with a smile and Renee put an exclamation point on the conversation with this, “Oh Kevin, remember, we all are the ones who are redefining “professional” to include being authentic and human!! :)”

Thanks for the reminder, Renée. For those of us involved in movements and initiatives like #HumansFirst, Human-Centered, or Work Human, we are changing the conversation and the culture of what belongs.

For me, this was a vivid reminder that instead of asking is this too personal to be part of professional correspondence? I now have a better question to ask and barometer to use.

Is this an authentic part of my humanity looking for legitimate expression?

If so, give full expression to it because that is part of what it means to bring your humanity to your workplace and work. Failing to do that means cutting off or shutting down a part of you and your humanity.

Of course, I’m not talking about things that cross the lines and offend people — I’m talking about the parts of your personality that make you uniquely, wonderfully, and beautifully YOU. Don’t shut that down or cut it off because someone told you it doesn’t belong at work.

Show up and shine as YOU. By doing so, you invite others to do the same.

#HumansFirst

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Kevin Monroe
Kevin Monroehttps://kevindmonroe.com/
Kevin Monroe helps people flourish on the road less traveled in business, leadership, and life so they make their dent in the universe. Since he was a teenager, he has usually chosen roads less traveled which usually involve going against the grain and seeking to go with the flow. All in hopes of making the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. His unique contribution to the world is creating environments, hosting encounters, and crafting experiences where people are inspired, equipped, and encouraged to live, love, and lead in extraordinary ways. He hosts a variety of events and experiences designed to do just that including; the Higher Purpose Podcast, The Gratitude Challenge, This ExtraOrdinary Life, and most recently, The League of Extraordinary Difference Makers. Kevin holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and an undergraduate degree in theology from Mercer University. He lives in Woodstock, GA with his lovely wife, Gwen. They are the parents of two adult children and one precocious granddaughter, Emma.

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20 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Great story Kevin. A few years ago I worked with a woman named Elsa. She was in HR and had a great sense of humor. I was relatively new in the company, and there was an email stating the copier was not working in the front lobby, which was basically for use on our production team. Because I can’t resist a good quip, I thoughtlessly responded to the email with “Please do not use the copier in the front lobby, or Elsa!” Once I hit send, my skin started crawling when I saw all of the upper management names in the chain. I did indeed get reprimanded, but it was a joke secretly enjoyed between many of us much later on…

  2. Love this reminder and the confirmation you received, Kevin!
    Two thoughts came to mind:
    1) I have made the mistake of hitting *send* without truly considering the consequences, and then realized I had sabotaged myself. If only I had your question in mind: Is this an authentic part of my humanity looking for legitimate expression?
    2) When I’m with people who are living and breathing what you’re talking about here, embracing our humanity, if I’ve said something that is somehow inappropriate or might have been misunderstood, those are the people who will simply ask me, rather than make a snap judgment and write me off. That’s how I know I’m exactly where I need to be!

  3. Kevin, I read your story twice but not sure what you said that meant any discomfort in receiving your message from anyone…your introduction sounded fine. But I must admit it has taken nearly 70 years to be strong enough to express my thoughts without fear of reprimanding or lacking authenticity. In fact, I welcome any criticism as a chance to validate my 70 years…like Popeye..I am what I am and you are what you are..peaceful coexistence. All in the hope of making the world a better place…thanks for making me think a little harder.

  4. Here! Here! Kevin! Bravo!
    The more human we are, the better received
    Being authentic is making a connection. What we can most relate to. Emotions are far less in numbers as opposed to the magnitude of circumstance in which they are expressed. Thus, we can pretty much relate to almost any emotion on some level. Sharing is caring and people want this. We all do. Great article ,y friend! Thank you

  5. Kevin, you’ve done a great job at deconstructing a response that happens for some of us so often we just let it slide right past. Kudos to you for valuing your inclination to respond authentically, and following through. And what a great example of how the inclinations we have, that we somethings overthink ;), are exactly the authentic response that creates further human connection – something we can always use more of in work situations. KM: “Is this an authentic part of my humanity looking for legitimate expression?” What a great guiding question. I love all of this.

    • Thank you, Mary. And that is exactly what I set out to do with this post — walk through the thought process and find where I get stuck and see if others can relate to it. Turns out that this is a common experience for many of us.

  6. Kevin, the scenario you described is for better or worse very common. We hit the send button and then slap ourselves on the forehead regretting what we wrote or that we forgot to put something in there. The same holds true for person to person conversations during the heat of an argument we say things we do not mean. Once again the flip side of the coin applies when we forgot to apologize for a previous statement or simply say I love you. Your humanity should be an integral part of your business or personal life. Terrific article, Kevin!

  7. Yep… that’s happened to me, too, Kevin! I think everyone can relate to that one. I love how you changed course, put it out there (because it’s totally you), and then went on with your day. It’s that third part that trips me up sometimes. I’m taking a play out of your playbook next time. Just say no to overthinking it!! Thank you for this one!

  8. Kevin, what a great read! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have also had those moments of second-guessing and overthinking, and then hitting send and thinking, “Oh no,” only to have results similar to yours. But I’m learning to go with my instinct. You are who you are, and you can bring humanity into professionalism without crossing lines. It begins with authenticity, and after you establish that, it then opens the doors to so many more possibilities.

    • Thanks, Laura. Your comment inspires me to paraphrase my favorite line from Paulo Coelho, “I wish it had not taken me 60 years to get comfortable being me, I’m just glad it didn’t take 70.” We can be both HUMAN and professional.

  9. That sounds like Renee’! Kevin, you are certainly not the only one who has experienced this, friend, I’ve been there many times. I so appreciate your courage in calling out these very human feelings and situations. You are the epitome of brave.

  10. Ah, Kevin — I’m sure many (most?) of us have at one time or another sent a message we regretted … which of course then gets our mind working overtime. Is THIS one OK? How about THIS one? It’s certainly possible that we end up overthinking, right? A great read, and thanks!

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