How often do you feel disrespected and think you know why? That often? I bet you’re wrong.
“Oh, I’m right, all right. I know exactly why she didn’t acknowledge my comments at the meeting.” “I know precisely why I was overlooked for promotion.” “I know perfectly well why they left the building without asking me to join them.”
I bet you’re wrong, not because I disrespect your opinion. I bet you’re wrong because there are so many stories, in addition to the ones you’re telling yourself, that can explain why others behave not as you wish they would, but as they do.
If you were to allow those possibilities, you’d likely save yourself needless misunderstandings.
“What if I want to know why they did what they did? What if I want them to know how I felt and the impact their words or actions had on me?”
Ask. Please. And be mindful, if you ask as though you already know the answer you’ll create a problem greater than the one you might not have. In other words…
If you were to say, “I know you overlooked me for promotion because I don’t speak up enough. That’s it, isn’t it? I’m not as rude as some of the loudmouths around here,” you’ll have a bigger problem than just missing out on that promotion.
When you ask to understand, and you should, ask in an open minded, open-hearted way: “When we were in the meeting yesterday morning, and I gave my perspective on why we didn’t meet our deadline, you disagreed with me, despite your having agreed with me on that very point, an hour before the meeting. When you did that I felt that our trust was broken. If you felt so strongly, why didn’t you tell me when there was time for us to discuss it, privately?”
Then listen, really listen to what your colleague is telling you. Listen to understand, not to defend or rebut. This isn’t just about you, proving your point, and having to be right. It is about recognizing that all our best intentions, yours, mine, theirs, have impact beyond what any of us might imagine.
“But what if I am right? Do I have to pretend to go along when I’m not okay with what happened?”
Once you understand the other person’s intention or the “why” of what they did, you can describe the impact of their behavior on you. And that impact is probably not what they intended. If it is, they are likely responding to what they’ve experienced as a pattern of interaction with you. That’s important information, so ask to understand.
Buckle up and calm down. Choose a time to talk that works for you both, so you’re not rushed and neither are they. Let them know what you want to discuss so they can prepare, just as you have.
If relationships are important to you, be they between or among family members, business associates, neighbors and friends, they are worth the time it takes to openly, honestly, and respectfully.