I am not someone that is always good at asking for what I need, or asking for behavior change in others. I tend to accept people as they come – which is one of my strongest traits I think – but I do it in a way that eventually wears me out. I never thought I was the quiet-storm-brewing kind of person. You know the kind: Instead of saying what’s on her mind she stews about it until it comes out stinking of resentment and criticism. I thought I was much more proactive than that.
Turns out, not so much.
Recently I made two requests of a friend. Two small behavior change requests that I didn’t think were a big deal. In my mind I was clear and polite, maybe a bit tentative or awkward because I knew I had to ask for this behavior change politely and as if it wasn’t a big deal. But I felt good about it. I asked for what I wanted! I didn’t just absorb behaviors I didn’t like, thinking it a better option than making someone mad at me.
Turns out though, I found out the next day, that I did make someone mad at me. For whatever reason, my “polite request” came across as a demand. An edict. A rude bossy way of telling someone how it was going to be end of story.
I argued this. That was NOT how I sounded! I was sure of it! I acknowledged that I was heard that way, but steadfastly committed to the fact that it wasn’t how it was intended. And it wasn’t. I blamed my friends “filter”. The filter we all have regarding our parents, our former partners….the ones that taught us to read between the lines and interpret things differently than how they are said. It certainly wasn’t my fault.
Then he mimicked what I sounded like. He repeated my words in the way he heard them.
At the same time I was apologizing for not intending to sound that way, I was coming to the awareness that slammed into me about an hour later: He Sounded Like My Mom. When he was showing me what he heard, he sounded EXACTLY like my mom. I dawned on me in a rush of understanding, two things: 1) I probably did sound just like my mom when she was making demands and being critical and 2) my mom probably had no clue she sounded like that either.
It was a revelation! I was more able to own my part in my interaction with my friend, and apologize sincerely (which he accepted) and now I have the wonderful opportunity to look more closely at where the disconnect is between what I think I sound like/say and how I come across when asking for what I need or want from others.
I also have a lot more compassion and understanding for this aspect of my mom that I hated so much, that I grew up with. She didn’t mean to be mean! She didn’t know! (And no wonder she got so defensive when I told her!)
Awareness is a good thing. Honesty and truthtelling is a very good thing. And compassion for self is the most important of all. All three together make up being vulnerable, which is a great strength.