Thursday, September 25, 2014

An impromptu lesson in listening

He likes me and I like someone else.

It sounds like the beginning of a Tom Petty song. ("Love hurts, yeah yeah!")

It got me thinking about the expectation management divide. How much of it is me effectively explaining and how much is on the recipient to hear and absorb?

I told him I didn't want to date, that there were too many barriers.

This wasn't to present obstacles to be tackled, it was to set expectations: I do not intend to date. Here's why, if you must know, but the end result is that no dating is going to happen.

Incidentally, my reasons are not thrilling. I'm just acknowledging my own reality (which is a form of self expectation management): I'm hung up on someone else, I'm exhausted after work, I don't have the energy to grow or nurture a relationship, and I want to spend what little free time I do have with a girlfriend going through chemo.

Someday I want a partner again, a shared life, a husband, a home. But nothing has materialized yet that helps me envision this and so that someday continues to exist in the future like a spectacular mirage.
I tried to explain where I was because it seems like people deserve to know why (doesn't understanding mitigate hurt?) but this went differently than I hoped. The conversation wasn't an "oh, that's where you are, okay..." type of 10-4, I got it, good buddy type of reception, but a I want those things too with a side of I know we could do this if we try vibe.

It was wonderful and sweet, and yet I could tell he didn't hear me. And I couldn't hear him.

Timeshare salespeople have an especially tough task at this communication thing.

They're not in it to listen or validate. They're in it to convince. They spend hours presenting why you should buy a timeshare. You reply with reasons why not: "I don't want to spend the money," "I don't like the location," "I don't want to be locked into a certain time frame every year."

Whatever your paltry excuses are, they won't hear of it. Whatever you say, they've got a counter-answer.

"You don't have to spend money right now!" "You can stay anywhere around the world!" "You can go anytime!" They remove all barriers.

Maybe if they take away reasons why not, all that's left is yes.

I could see he hoped I would see all of the wonderful reasons why we should try. I hugged him because I didn't know how else to thank him for showing me that he believed in an "us," but I couldn't take away the ever-present ache of missing Other Guy or any of the other things I felt.

Then I felt guilty because I worried I'd disappointed him; that maybe I had not managed expectations afterall.

Nothing illuminates a scenario like looking up and realizing you've suddenly been tossed onto the other side.

When Other Guy tried to tell me where he was, I didn't understand so I didn't absorb it. What do you mean I'm not "it," what we have is so great in so many ways.

I cycled through the stages of loss, almost.

Grief, denial, anger, bargaining. But it had nothing to do with him. I had the choice of acceptance all along. He transmitted his message; tried to manage my expectations. Now it was up to me to manage my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment