I awoke the other morning to an email that disturbed me. Someone I had provided services to, who had paid me by credit card, had reversed the payment, and now I was being asked to address the issue.

Caught off guard, I quickly went through a rash of emotions. The first was shock; no one expects to see that for anything. The second was anger; how could this person pull this type of thing when I had provided good services. The third was questioning; didn't this person think I did a good job for them? The fourth was fear; what happens if that money goes, money I've already withdrawn and used for something else? Look at all those conclusions I jumped to in seconds.

Usually the first move someone is ready to take is to strike back. It's a natural human emotion when caught off guard. And I was ready to react. In this case, it would have been to dispute the reversal. However, I couldn't dispute what I didn't understand. The person had never contacted me, and we were still scheduled to work with each other again. Something didn't quite make sense.

Calming down, I decided to send an email to this person. I just asked the question flat out; what happened?

She wrote back apologizing. She said that she was changing banks, and that for some reason her current bank reversed a bunch of payments on her. She said she'd be investigating whether she'd have to pay me again or could resolve things so that this payment would remain valid, and apologized for causing me any problems.

Almost instant relief. Every emotion I had except one went away. I've been through one of these credit card transactions before, where another client accidentally canceled a payment because he didn't recognize the name on his bill at the time; I have no idea what came up on his bill, but he also canceled another payment that he owed at the time.

As humans, we tend to react quickly to things, often without true provocation, and then we end up apologizing for our behavior. Sometimes, we have to be ready to step back, take a deep breath, and assess the situation so we'll make the correct move.

Imagine how badly all of this could have turned out if I'd gone with any of those first emotions. Not too well, I imagine.