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The dropped appointment

Several days ago, I awoke about 4 a.m. with a gnawing feeling that I’d missed a client appointment. I got up, went to my electronic calendar, and discovered I HAD missed an appointment. The client  requested a schedule change, I said okay, and then didn’t make the change on the calendar. I felt terrible about it, and sent a note of apology to the client.

That evening, I told my partner Duff about it. “That’s why I always use a good, old-fashioned paper-and-pencil calendar,” he said. “Nothing drops through the cracks.” I was quick with a comeback.

“My calendar works just fine. I rarely miss an appointment. This was just an unusual circumstance.”

I didn’t hear the defensive tone, but Duff sure did. “Hey,” he said. “That wasn’t an accusation. Just an observation.” He looked at me with a wry smile. Usually this conversation unfolded in the other direction: I’m the one making observations and he’s the one going on the defense.

I took a deep breath and stepped back from myself. I felt terrible about missing the appointment. I was  focused on the negative. So when he made a simple statement about preferring paper calendars, I was primed to hear, “And if you tracked appointments MY way, you wouldn’t SCREW UP like this” between the lines.

He said nothing of the kind, but in that moment, that’s what I heard. The judgments and accusations were mine, not his.

Unless we’re aware of what’s going on internally and can re-ground ourselves, we’re suckers for anything flying at us that mirrors what we’re already feeling. Fortunately, that evening I had Duff to remind me.