Have you every had an experience where you were blown away by someone’s apparent lack of regard for you or your situation? I had a moment like that this past weekend. I simply could not believe that my friend, let’s call her Sue to protect the innocent, would do something so self-focused and rude.
What happened next was totally my fault.
Instead of clarifying and asking a simple question like, “Did you realize I was right in the middle of this when you just came in?” I got my feelings hurt. I showed that I was upset, but I wanted to avoid conflict in front of the group, so I was silent. Well, there might have been some huffing and puffing going on, but mostly silent. (very mature, I know)
As you can imagine, that little plan backfired and things escalated as Sue was irritated. She wanted to know why I was upset. Then, in my wisdom, I resisted talking about it further which just went downhill fast.
After some time and reflection, it became clear that Sue was in her own little world when she walked in that room. She sincerely wasn’t aware of what was going on and just wanted to come and join us. To her, my non-verbal reaction came out of left field. She thought I was the one being self-focused and rude.
Seek to understand, then speak your truth, in love.
We are all walking around like the stars in our own shows because our natural tendency is to see situations only from the perspective of how they affect us. When we can stop ourselves from reacting long enough to seek clarity by speaking our truth with empathy, it’s an opportunity to love.
My conversation with Sue could have gone like this:
Hi Sue, it’s good to see you this morning. You probably didn’t notice, but before you walked in, we were right in the middle of a deep conversation. I’d really love to be able to wrap that up really quickly. Would that work for you?
Here’s the deal, people aren’t mind readers.
They’re so busy with their own performances they most often don’t notice ours at all, much less understand the stories we’re telling ourselves about what’s going on. It’s up to us to seek to understand their perspective, tell them what we’re noticing, and clearly ask for what we want.
People are drawn to clarity and away from confusion. ~ Donald Miller
It’s so true. Huffy, puffy, eye-rolling teenage behavior is very confusing. People want to turn and run from that stuff. Conversely, a clear statement about how we’re experiencing things, wrapped with empathy for their perspective, draws people in closer and creates connection. We’ve been socialized to avoid conflict, but if we can figure this one thing out, it would make a world of difference in our relationships.
Hopefully my little story will be a reminder to you as you go about your day. Check in with the stories you’re telling yourself about the interactions you’re having with others. Show empathy and provide clarity. It might not turn situations completely around, but it’s an opportunity for you to open the door to connection instead of slamming it shut.
to more love,
P.S. Not so coincidentally, my husband wrote an entire book on this topic called The Stories We Tell Ourselves, you can check it out here. If this is a topic you could use more support on, his book will give you much more depth and clarity.