Have you ever been in a situation where you do or say something and before you even know it you’ve made someone upset?
It happened to me last week, I was so busy that I cancelled on a friend because of the tube strike, without thinking too much about it. I simply assumed it was going to be easier for both of us not to meet up as the transport situation was complicated.
However my friend reacted rather strongly and got very upset. At first I was taken aback by that response, as I hadn’t anticipated it, and began to wonder what was going on. Now I’ve noticed in those kind of situations as human beings we tend to adopt one of those two responses:
- Either we become defensive and blame the other person for over-reacting and being unreasonable, whilst we justify ourselves in that behaviour
- Or we do the exact opposite, we take all the blame on us, thinking we’re not worthy of them or we are a bad person.
Of course, you see where I’m going with that. Things are rarely that black or white. The best response is actually in-between.
In every situation involving communication with another person, there’s always a shared responsibility. It’s the 50-50 law. They certainly have their 50% share, but so do you. So how do you handle this?
The first step is to recognize your responsibility in that action. Mine last week was to assume my friend was going to be ok with not meeting up, by not stepping into their shoes long enough to realise that perhaps it was going to be an issue for them. Ironically that’s a trait I absolutely loathe in others and yet, I displayed it in that situation!
I’ve read somewhere once, that the personality traits that you tend to abhor in other people, simply reflect the flaws you reject in yourself…food for thoughts!
To come back to the situation with my friend last week, I took some time to analyse my share of responsibility. It’s important however to do this without blaming or beating yourself up. Make sure you’re compassionate and kind to yourself when you explore your side of responsibility, so you can learn from it rather than damage your self-worth. We are all human, meaning we all have some flaws and it’s perfectly ok, especially when we choose to work on them.
Once I’d accepted this and learnt from my mistake, I then moved to the other 50% of responsibility. I realised that of course I wasn’t considerate enough on that occasion, yet for my friend to respond so strongly and refuse to talk to me for a few hours afterwards, it must have meant something was going on for them. So I decided to stop dwelling and worrying, and to wait until we were going to meet up next time to find out what indeed caused that strong response.
As I had anticipated, they were experiencing some huge problems in their family I wasn’t aware of, and that external stress contributed in their reaction towards me.
So in a nutshell, when you experience conflict with someone, always remember it’s 50-50. And if you approach them with kindness and compassion to understand their side of the story, you are much more likely to embrace healthy, respectful and considerate relationships with your closed ones.