Several years ago at work, I was asked not to divulge something before an announcement was made. Easy enough, I can keep my mouth shut. The problem came when I had to speak to a manager I worked with on a regular basis. I wasn’t supposed to tell her and so I skirted the truth.
After I hung up the phone, I felt awful. I knew that the conversation hadn’t gone well though at the time she didn’t even know that. The Monday following the meeting where the announcement was made, I talked with her and the discomfort was evident. She felt I lied to her. I told only half the story, a lie by omission. It was not my intention to hurt her. She and I had worked together for many years. We had a comfortable working relationship. She trusted me.
A few days later, I talked with her again. She said the words, “You lied to me, and that was the worst part.” I felt horrible. I apologized. The conversation was stunted. She wasn’t ready to open up and trust me again. I couldn’t blame her.
My heart was heavy because of this situation. I apologized, told her how it happened, let her know how bad I felt. I realized I was trying to make myself feel better as much as her. The relationship was never the same. I definitely learned a valuable lesson.
I often tell people I do much better with written communication. I am much more comfortable with my ability to communicate honestly and effectively when writing. The thing about writing is I always have an opportunity to go back, delete, and rewrite. Unfortunately, I don’t get that same opportunity when I speak. This situation has taught me to choose my words more carefully. Words can hurt even when that is not the intention.