I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who was recounting a text she had received from a colleague. It went a little like this ‘she always says it in that way, it’s because she’s upset with me’, I asked her what she meant and she said something like ‘I don’t know, she’s just a bit off hand in the way she said it, I know I’ve upset her but who knows what about this time!’ She then dug around in her bag, pulled her phone out and read out the text to me, then said ‘see what I mean!’.
I have to confess I didn’t really, it was just a text in reply to one that she had sent, of course, my friend had added some tonation to it which made it sound a little harsher, but the words in the text, well they were just a normal response.
What my friend was doing was filling in the gaps, there was nothing in the text that suggested that she had upset her friend, but this was clearly something that she was mindful of, something that perhaps could happen, maybe something that she was worried about and then she was reading something in the text that simply wasn’t there. I know that I’ve done this in the past, may be with an email, a message or even if someone has failed to acknowledge me as I passed them – I’ve told myself a story about it; maybe I’ve upset them in some way or they have realised that I’m not as good as they thought I was. It’s natural and it’s human, based more than likely on our own insecurities, but it can create problems that aren’t there because it starts a spiral of misunderstanding that can be difficult to pull back from.
Imagine for a moment receiving an email from a colleague that you interpret negatively, you think you’ve done something wrong to have received such a worded email. In fact there is nothing in the email that confirms this, but this is how it makes you feel. How are you going to respond to that colleague when you see them? With open arms and a broad smile? Probably not, the chances are you will respond in a more distant, cautious way. How will this colleague feel about this? Remember they don’t think that they have done anything wrong. Of course they will feel confused, may be upset or even cross. How will that affect your future relationship? It’s doubtful that it will blossom! Often what happens is that neither party know why the relationship has deteriorated but it just has and they don’t know how to put it right, it just gets worse and worse.
So how can we prevent this from happening? Well in many ways it’s not about prevention because we are all human and we have days when we feel more vulnerable, maybe we feel tired or stress, but usually something will be going on that takes us out of that more confident space. The trick is to be aware that it does happen and if you find yourself reacting in this way, take some time out before you respond because often a fresh pair of eyes later will show you just how much you are filling in the gaps!
Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Speaker (andreamorrison.co.uk) and is author of The Feel Good Factor in 30 days, her facebook page is www.facebook.com/andreamorrisoncoaching Discover the Real You, together, today!