- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

A useful reminder in high-stress times

23rd February, 2022

A useful reminder in high-stress times

It was cold and dark and I was a bit scared.


As I was walking home last Tuesday, the tall man in the black puffa ahead kept turning and looking over his shoulder.


I clutched my bag closer and kept my head down.


But every few steps he kept glancing back at me.


Was he a deranged stalker, desperate to meet the author of Email Attraction?


(It’s an occupational hazard ?)


My heart beat faster as I crossed over the road.


Would he follow with his little yellow book and get me to sign it?


Or club me over the head with it?


I didn’t know.


Luckily, he kept walking on his side, no book in sight.




Then I noticed that, weirdly, he still kept looking over his shoulder.


Every few steps – a quick glance.


And then, oh! It all became clear.


A red double-decker bus barrelled around the corner and the man sprinted to the bus stop and climbed on.


He hadn’t been looking at me at all – he’d just been looking to see if the bus was coming.


I couldn’t help laughing (but was also relieved not to end up as Victim X on the true crime podcast ‘From Email Attraction to Fatal Attraction‘ ?)


It reminded me of how quick we are to make assumptions about people. Especially when they don’t get back to us:


‘She hasn’t replied to my email – she clearly doesn’t think I’m important enough.’

‘They haven’t responded to the proposal – we must have come in too expensive.’

‘He never got back to me on that idea. He must hate it.’


And then we end up in a spiral of self-doubt, or worse, get irritated and write stroppy chasers.


It’s easily done – especially with email where we can’t see faces or body language.


But we can never really know what’s going on in other people’s minds without asking them.


A slow reply could just be because they’re feeling overwhelmed.


Or their chihuahua got sick.


Or they dropped their laptop in the hot tub.


So hold your horses before you jump to conclusions.


And think about how you might gently clarify things instead:


‘Karim – Did you have any thoughts/concerns about the idea I raised yesterday?’

‘Claire – I haven’t heard back from you yet on the report. Would a quick call be helpful to chat through, or do you need some more time to take a look?’


Now you know this already, I’m sure.


But it’s a good reminder for us all in these high-stress times, right?


Me included.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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