I have, unfortunately, dealt with a lot of difficult situations in the past couple years, both personally and professionally.
As a result, I have had to do a lot of thinking about the relationships in my life. About how I respond to people, and how they respond to me. About what I expect from people, and what they can expect from me.
I’ve learned some lessons. They may not be right for everybody, but they’re right for me.
I really think they all come down to one underlying message though.
“We are only responsible for ourselves. We are not responsible for the actions of others, and we cannot change them no matter how much we want to. What we can choose to do is think differently about them, and respond differently to them.”
Recognizing this has been a big change for me. I have spent much of my life expecting people to do the right thing; and being resentful, hurt, and angry when they didn’t. Making assumptions about what kind of people they are, or how they feel about me, based on their action or inaction.
This is no more. If I want something from someone, I ask for it. If they reject me, I can decide how I feel about that. Deciding how I feel about them based on them not reaching out to me, that’s just not fair. Assuming they do not care about me, or are not caring people because they don’t reach out, is also not fair. I’m not in a position to make that judgement, and have no reason to assume the worst. Really, people are usually just busy and tied up in their own lives.
This is also changed the way I react to other people’s needs. Constantly reaching out, constantly being there or showing I care is exhausting, and often feels intrusive. Often when people say “no”, I feel like they mean “yes, but please insist”. I’ve done this too.
But not anymore. Instead, I do what makes sense and seems reasonable. If I offer to do something and am told “no”, no it is. If people want more from me, they can choose to be resentful that they aren’t getting it, or they can choose to reach out and ask. That’s out of my control. What is in the my control is to no longer treat conversation like a game, expect others to be mind readers, or let others expect it of me.
Lastly I’ve learned that more is not always more, even in times of crisis. One can check in too much, call too much, offer too much, and expect too much. Sometimes, less means more. It is more sincere, more meaningful, more easily given and received.