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Showing posts with label misunderstood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label misunderstood. Show all posts

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie and Other Mistakes in Relating

I believe that unless we are a really big jerk to everyone or we are surrounding ourselves with a toxic people who don't like us and/or don't respect us at all, most of the people whom we run across in our lives will try to relate or empathize with us.  They may do it on a sincere desire to empathize, a feeling of duty that they should try, a desire to look thoughtful or a cynical attempt to virtue signal.   Whatever the motivation, I believe people unwittingly make mistakes in trying to do so.

First a few notes:
* Audience = The person you are trying to 'relate' to.
* Speaker = You, the one who is trying to 'relate'.

Let's think about a few scenarios:
  •  I know how you feel or I understand what you are going through.
    • Sometimes people have faced very similar circumstances and can relate or understand, but many times, others simply can't know how we feel until they've actually been in our shoes.  Sometimes, it may be beyond their understanding as well.
    • I believe when said genuinely, it is a statement designed to convey solidarity, but it said the wrong way it can wring hollow or can even be condescending.
      • In other words, you--the speaker--are just trying to hard to stand with them.
      • Sometimes, it is better just to quietly stand by another going through trying or tearful times.
    • It is important to try to understand yourself and your audience when considering saying this.
      • Is there any real possible way you could even remotely know?
      • Have you been through a circumstance even remotely close?
      • How well do you actually know the person you are considering saying this too? 
        • Are you close enough that they know what you mean and/or would take it as a solidarity statement?  
        • Are you just an acquaintance and unsure what your audience is thinking but feel compelled to say something 'appropriate'?
    • I can relate to what you are going through (followed by how).
      • Sometimes you can relate and sometimes you can't.
      • Sometimes your audience just wants to vent or 'cry' and they really aren't looking for your reassurance.  They are just looking for a 'pat on the back', not a 'solution' or 'proof' that you know.
        • There is a time for serious reassurance and there is a time to just nod or say, "I hear you" or just a hug.
          • Maybe your audience does want some reassurance and are open to hearing your situation and how you can make it through tough times.
          • Maybe everything will be alright or one day they may feel better, but at the moment your audience may not feel that way.  Perhaps they still need to mourn a bit more before they get to a point of being open to hearing someone who has been there.
        • There is time to jump in and 'problem solve' and there is a time to let your audience figure out there own path.
          • If your audience asks questions about you and a particular situation--in other words, seeks you out-- obviously, they are open to letting you help them.
          • If your audience rebuffs moderate attempts to relate, then they probably aren't ready for your assistance.
          • Sometimes, as painful as it is, you have to watch your audience make his or her way through their own tough circumstances.
            • People process grief and hurt differently, sometimes they have to figure out their own way or pace.  You can't artificially impose a deadline or a path for another.  You can help, but you can't force it.
            • Trying to hard to shield loved ones from the effects of grief and hurt can keep them from gaining the strength they need for future grief or trauma, when they may not have the same 'help' available.
        • There is a time to relate and there is a time in which relating could seem like minimizing.
          • Age or a similar difference in circumstance could cause a problem in relating.
            • People tend to relate better to their own age/circumstance.   I believe this is especially true when life experience levels are different.
            • Trying to relate could sound like "in my day" or "where I come from" or some similar disconnect.  Even if you can see the parallel on the relatable issue, your audience may not.   Besides, due to difference in personal circumstances, your audience may not be open to seeing the parallel.
          • Perceived expertise or regard could cause a problem in relating.
            • Sometimes if your audience hears the same thing from a 'professional', even if you have the life experience to know the same thing, your audience will tend to respond better to the professional.   That's why counseling is such an in demand profession.
            • If there is a disconnect or block with your audience, you might say the right things, but your audience may perceive it 'not getting me'.   Once again, an outsider such as a counselor or minister or highly regarded family or other leader might be the answer as they could be perceived as being more 'objective'.

I could go on indefinitely about mistakes in relating, but I will finish the main part of my post there.  Why I called the post "Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie..." is this.   I have never had a very close knit family and I barely knew family outside of immediate family.   This at points in my life has left a void.  Let's face it, for worse or for better, family has an outsized influence on our life.   They are our first example and in many cases, strongest example.  They are the ones who are expected to be the most loyal and at least initially whom we seek the strongest validation from.   Anyway, at times, I have mourned not knowing my extended family and not having a close knit family.   I've been told by people a few times in my life that well, that knowing your (extended) family and getting together with family isn't all that it's cracked up to be.   In other words, 'having' family is not all it's cracked up to be.  To me that has felt tone deaf.   I came up with an analogy to express this.   Mainly that "Half a Pie is Still Half a Pie".   That is, yes, your circumstances aren't perfect either.  In other words, your family might have its problems, but they are still a unit and they have some close, albeit, not perfect relationships.  In other words, you have half a pie.  Some people, for all practical purposes they don't have a family (little overall cohesion with any that they do know and most that they never knew).  That would be little or no pie.   So, trying to relate by saying, well family isn't all it is cracked up to be seems 'tone-deaf'.  Their intentions may be well in stating that, but it doesn't feel relatable.  Anyway, this was just an obvious example of where I've seen mistakes in relating.

Just my 1/50th of a $1.  As with all my blog posts, feel free to take that which helps.  I write them in hopes that it helps people either can find someone to relate to and/or sees a perspective which they hadn't necessarily thought of.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Being boxed into other's expectations: Thoughts on

In a prior blog, called Boxing others into our expectations, I wrote about the tendency of placing expectations on others that we not necessarily realistic.  In a way, it was seeing others through the lens of our expectations--or more likely the needs of what we 'need' for them to be to us.  In it I had unrealistic expectations of family.  I thought the family member should be more loyal, have more empathy and just generally behave more like my expectation of 'family'.  Once I accepted that the family member was who they were, I realized it really wasn't personal.  Who they were was more about what they were capable than about how they felt about me.  So, I stopped stressing about the relationship so much.  Anger, bitterness, appeals to them as 'family', etc. gradually and mostly ebbed as I stopped boxing this person into my expectation of what 'family' should be like.

In "It's just you and me and we just disagree...", I touched upon the other side of the coin.  That is, when you aren't someone who others think or expect you are (or should be).  I had been talking to someone whom I met at my daughter's skating lessons for about a month.  Anyway, one day she just started being critical of me for what reason I don't know.  Anyway, I was the same person I was when I first talked to her, but somewhere she'd developed an expectation of who I should be or impression of who I was.  After a time, apparently that expectation or impression didn't match up with my reality? (That's the closest I can come?).  Anyway, I was able to detach from her negativity towards me as I knew I was the same person she had met on day one.   Essentially, I refused to let her box me into whom she thought or expected that I was or thought I should be.  A more down to earth way of describing the situation is that "she didn't get me".  That's okay, we aren't necessarily entitled to being completely understood, but it is important if we commit to someone and them to us, that we attempt to understand them.

As we know, successful relationships (family, friends, spouse, etc) are based on communication.   Sometimes we don't always communicate effectively whom we are and sometimes the other party isn't able (or willing) to see whom we are.  Sometimes the difference between  able and willing is clouded.  For example, the other party believes they are willing to keep an open mind on us, but they have an unrecognized block.  It could be a relationship or hurt or disappointments in the past that clouds their objectiveness.   But, I digress, if I was taking the side of the one who would be 'boxed' into expectations, these are types of questions I could ask:
  • Did I not express/reveal myself effectively (unintentionally)?
    • Sharing oneself is a gradual process.  In other words, it is not something that can (or should) be done in a matter of weeks or even months. 
      • People who are interested in you will tend to fill in the blanks when absent information.
      • They may tend to fill in the blanks based on their own experiences.
    • Sometimes due to sub-conscience blocks of my own, I may avoid sharing parts of myself.
      • For example, if I have hidden trust issues, I may almost subconsciously pause in revealing parts of my personality.
      • For example, if I have shame issues, I may on some level, close off certain parts of of my life.
  • Have I intentionally been cautious about revealing myself (intentional)?
    • If I'm unsure of how the other party will take a certain aspect of my personality or self, I might tend to tread lightly rather than easily express that part of myself.
    • If I've been hurt before, do I want to risk revealing myself only to be hurt again (and have to maybe do it over again)?
  • Does the other party have the time or energy to get to know me?
    • Sometimes, when either or both--time or energy--are absent, the other party may not be easily able to get to know me.
    • I may have to take the initiative and reveal myself better (if the relationship is important to me).
  • Does the other party even want to get to know me?
    • Are they comfortable with close relationships or do they prefer arm's length distance relationships in which they can comfortable control or keep their own self hidden?
    • Have they placed me in an a 'sort of' friend box vs. others in their circle (and are not wanting to invest much in getting to know me)?

In a 12 step or recovery program, those questions would be considered "my side of the street".  After assessing my role in or feelings about a relationship, I have to step aside and consider the relationship.  If after dealing with my side of the street, the other party is still trying to box me into their own expectations, I have to consider how I want to handle it.
  • Am I going to let myself be bothered by what they expect or think about me? If so,
    • Do I want to work to clear up any misconceptions or misunderstanding they might have about me?
    • Do I find a way to accept that perhaps they are incapable of understanding me?
  • Will I decide that it's not worth the trouble?
    • Will I be myself in dealing with them and let the chips fall where they may?
    • Will I step back from the situation and the expectations place on me?


Applying questions like that to my own life, I've come to realize:
  • I can't please everyone and I can't base my life on living up to the expectations of others.
  • If a relationship is important I can try to help the other party understand me.  If it isn't I can just let it go and understand that not everyone will 'get me'.
  • If someone has expectations of me or who I am that are unrealistic for me, I can express that point.  But, I can't control them and I can't spend my life being worried or stressed out about it.

So, there you have it and the song below is sort of an extreme response to being boxed into the expectations of others.  I'd don't necessarily advocate that point of view, but I had to put it in there anyway.