Even when we think we are clear we are often “adding” information that we really don’t have. Here’s a very personal example: as I was leaving my fitness studio the other morning, I asked my trainer (who is also my best friend—that is an important point) if she “had a busy day”. She replied, “yes”. I noticed, about 30 seconds after I left, that the thought in my head was, “she does not have time for me today.” Followed very quickly with, “Really, Carol, that was not the question you asked. You asked if she had a busy day. Why are you attributing her answer, yes, to the question you didn’t ask but really wanted to ask?” The question I wanted to know the answer to was, “Do you have time for me to process a situation with you?” Now I know, without a doubt, that my friend cares about me and would make time if I needed something and yet my self-talk went to “she does not have time for me today.”
How many times do we do this with our colleagues, our leaders, our followers, our friends and family? We just make stuff up. This is a common occurrence in the Fog, when we are not clear. When we start to make stuff up it sends us down the Spiral.
Here is a deeper point to consider. Why didn’t I just ask the question I wanted the answer to? Why did I ask a vague question and set this whole thing up? I decided to take the advice of Brené Brown and “rumble” with this situation (if you have not read Rising Strong, you should!).
Here’s what I discovered (and admittedly a bit scared to share):
I think it is about vulnerability. To ask if she had time for me to process a situation means I needed help. Not an easy thing for me to admit especially since what I needed to process was around a failure. Failure if very embarrassing for me. I am scared to look bad in front of others, especially those whom I strongly value their opinion of me.
This led me to the other issue...It also would have set me up for rejection, what if she said, “no?” Rejection is my greatest fear. But this is my best friend, one of the few people I trust will my most vulnerable self and she has proven herself very worthy of that trust. None of what went through my head in the few seconds after I left the studio was the least bit rational or even accurate. And yet, there I went. I am grateful I was able to catch it in seconds versus let it Spiral Down within me. I am also grateful that I learned from this.
That I think is the challenge in front of us. Can we catch ourselves quickly? Can we reframe and change that self-talk to something more positive, and more importantly more accurate? Can we learn from these experiences and apply that to future experiences? Can we be vulnerable because it leads to the courage we need to grow ourselves and better our relationships with each other. I believe the answer to those questions is, “YES!”