The distance and coldness slapped me in the face. I knew my friend had a lot on her mind so I didn’t worry about it — at first.
When it happened again, I asked if she was OK because she seemed upset about something. She said she was and didn’t offer any explanation.
After a few days of the same experience, I investigated because she obviously wasn’t OK. I thought back to what might have happened and realized I was what happened.
In a pressure-filled, deadline-crunched, sleep-deprived moment, I had barked at her about a project we were both working on. In the moment, I didn’t realize I had been hurtful.
My words were not meant to target her. I was actually frustrated with myself because I had not prepared as thoroughly as I thought I had.
As soon as my aha moment came, I ran to my friend to apologize. She appreciated the acknowledgement and eventually warmed up to me — but it wasn’t immediate. She kept me at a slight distance for months.
It hurts me deeply when I hurt another person and yet I’m extremely capable of doing it.
I don’t tend to panic nor react frantically in tense situations. I’m the person who stays calm, assesses every side of the situation and determines the plan of action. But with this calmness under pressure comes a laser focus and sharp directness that can easily stomp on another’s feelings.
While I’m continuously working to improve in this area, I’ve also learned to show others grace when the situation is reversed. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t targeting me, that they are merely under a lot of pressure at the moment.
Many friends have modeled that same grace for me through the years.
Reading the right cues
In fact, another friend of mine and I had a rough season once when we were misreading each other’s emotions as being upset with the other. Once we realized what we were doing, we made a pact that we would always tell the other if something was wrong in our relationship rather than forcing each other to guess.
The experience was so freeing that I challenged myself to move quickly to resolve any conflict that might arise in all my relationships.
My goal is to stop myself the second I realize I’m being unfair or hurtful, take responsibility and apologize, then regroup in a way to have a calm and mutually respectful conversation. I’m learning to truly validate the other person’s feelings and decipher the facts of the situation while trying to avoid emotional responses. I’m also learning I don’t have to always be right — yes, that might have been the hardest one for me to swallow.
When I’m on the other side, I’m trying to calmly alert the person right away that what he or she did or said was hurtful to me. From there, my goal is to be kind, forgive and not leave any awkward feelings between us. It is really hard to tell another person when he or she has hurt or frustrated you, so I’m also working hard to not react defensively when someone is bold enough to share.
Worth all the effort
Some days merely attempting to live in relationship with the vast number of people in our lives can stretch our abilities, but I’ll be the first to say it is worth all the effort. I can’t imagine my life without all the amazing people who make it so rich, joyful and fulfilling. I’m just thankful they choose to love me despite my many shortcomings.
—By Jennifer Davis Rash