Treating others the way you would like to be treated yourself is a good 'rule of thumb'. Try to check all the facts before making a response, and do it in person and in private when coaching improvements. Self help pioneer Dale Carnegie said that when you want to give praise, do it in writing and tell the world ... and when you want to coach an improvement, do it verbally and in private, and may I add 'using a kind voice'.
Always try to think about how your interaction will pave the road towards future improved relations (avoiding blame or judgment). Remember, that we all made choices (however flawed) believing they served us best at that time.
Assume that whatever you write, e-mail or otherwise express will end up being heard or read by the people affected by the message. So try to be as positive as possible with the future goals in mind.
When deciding to be "tough" or "kind", try to be kind. Somehow just having that intention will produce the best results in the end. And no matter how crafty or logical our reasoning may be, the results usually end up poorly if we try to take advantage of another person. Even if no one finds out, the most important person already knows and that person will suffer a reduced self-esteem. That person, of course, is you.
When it comes to money and business, this message can sometimes be forgotten; here is a personal story:
I am a rental property owner. Last spring a tenant, who had signed to remain until the end of August, told me that she wanted to move out at the end of the month for personal reasons. By the letter of our lease agreement, I could have insisted she stay or demand payment for the remaining 4 months. I was torn for several weeks between what seemed to make sense from a business point of view (insist on honoring the lease terms ... fearing no one would want to rent in the summer) and what seemed like the kind thing to do.
In the end, I just did what felt right and released her from the lease, trusting that things would work out. In gratitude, she paid for an extra month as compensation for the early leave. Then, just a week prior to the end of that paid month I found another tenant at an even higher rental rate. I smile to this day knowing that somehow our best intentions do pay "even in the business world"!
So, try to trust in what feels right inside, especially during those challenges we all face.
Copyright © 2009 Edward G. Drennan
Many thanks to Livia & Corie for their helpful comments and encouragement on this and the other student postings!