Just recently I have had a couple long, in-depth conversations with friends about misperceptions, frustrations, hurt feelings, and the proverbial victimization by others.
These conversations led to insights for all involved, but will they lead to a positive change? I believe they can, if even a small amount of effort is expended.
The crux of the conversations revolved around how the people in our lives upset us, make us feel small, guilt us, or under-appreciate us. Many of these feelings seem to arise from abbreviated conversations, primarily ambiguous text messages.
When looking at the different circumstances, one thing became crystal clear: the person on the receiving end–admittedly, that includes myself–often puts his/her own spin on the other party’s words. We do not necessarily read or hear what was actually said, or in some cases not said, but instead what we want or expect to receive.
As a quick example, if you’re having a text conversation with a friend and that friend stops responding, what goes through your mind? Are they’re annoyed with your side of the conversation? Are they’re too busy to be bothered with you? Do they lack common manners? Oh come on, you know you’ve thought it, just as I have! These certainly are possibilities, but so are the possibilities that the phone battery died, the person is driving or having an actual in-person conversation, dropped their phone in a cooler of water, is at an event, or that a child needs immediate attention. Do you stop to consider such scenarios or do you go right for the pity-me story?
In the case of an actual phone conversation, perhaps the person is distracted by a family issue or an overwhelming to-do list; maybe they have a headache and aren’t focusing on you; maybe they are disappointed in an outcome, but try not to show it; maybe they’re in the middle of something else. Any of these things could cause a person to seem distant or disengaged. Do you take it personally, wondering what you’ve done to upset them or cause a disconnect, or do you entertain the idea the other person has a life beyond you and your immediate needs?
Even in face-to-face conversations, it can be hard to judge a person’s true meaning, but phone calls and text messages leave a chasm of opportunity for misperception. As we begin a new year, why not begin with a clean slate? Let people tell their own stories, don’t create new ones based on a snippet of conversation or knowledge. Focus on your own story! Guess what…even if the other party is trying to cloak you in guilt, you don’t have to wear that garment! If the other party is exhibiting rude or childish behavior, you don’t have to stick around and partake in it! If the other party doesn’t find you worthy of their time, move on and find people who do! If other parties want to lie or gossip, you can rise above that and not include it in your story! If others are seeking sympathy or a savior, you do not have to buy into it! Let your story be, “I care about my well being over creating or buying into a drama-filled scenario” and I promise you’ll be a much happier person.
The bottom line is this: Whenever you’re having a phone or text conversation, you have the right to limit what comes through your phone–it’s yours and you can end the conversation at any time (as can the other party). You also have the right–and responsibility–to determine what you allow into your life and how it impacts you. You also have the responsibility to yourself to not let the story you tell spin out of control. If in doubt ask, otherwise take things at face value and nothing more.
In this busy and technology-filled world, any of us can come off as abrupt, rude, or self-centered. Let’s all try–on both sides of our devices–to put more thought into what we say and less thought into what we think was meant. It’s not easy, but with practice it can be done.
Now, about the crazy things my spellcheck sends you…
The Yellow Kite