My new friend was very upset with me. ‘You’ve changed,’ she rebuked and continued with other allegations against me. Stunned, and rigorously restraining my urge defend myself, I took a few deep breaths as I processed the situation. Eventually, I was calmed down enough to be able to ask her out for coffee, to chat. My intent was to understand her perspective.
Our friendship began several months ago when she was going through a difficult time in her life. She used to reach out to me for support. Then, she stopped. I assumed that this was due to what she was going through and part of that process. ‘She’s going through a rough time,’ I reasoned. ‘Perhaps she needs space.’
Clearly, I was wrong.
As we chatted, I realised that our expectations of each other were different, and that neither had communicated these. We simply decided, on our own, what the other’s behaviour should be. She assumed that I would reach out to her because I knew that she was going through a rough time. I assumed that she would reach out to me, if she needed support, just like she had done in the past.
Sound familiar? How many times do you live in the mindset that the other person knows or should know our needs, thoughts and expectations? Recall a conversation with your loved one or a close friend where you said something like, ‘Honey, I truly did not know that you felt that way!’
So, where is the disconnect or, ‘areas of opportunity’ to build more clarity in communication?
One critical area is self-awareness; the other one is checking our assumptions. Let’s tackle self-awareness first.
‘Self-awareness is being aware of your own presence, inside and out,’ explains Deepak Chopra, adding ‘Self-awareness leads to acceptance as well as a deeper understanding of yourself.’
It is this self-awareness that enabled me to stop reacting defensively, pause by taking deep breaths, and then respond with an invitation to a conversation with the intent to understand (not judge or criticize) my friend or the situation. It is also this self-awareness that will enable us to work on the assumptions we make.
Shahin Sharma, BA ACC