When Ben and I were in that awkward, in-between stage of “More Than Friends, But Not Actually Dating Yet”, we met for coffee one evening. We were at the restaurant for hours, and I was thinking everything was going really well, until Ben started telling me a story about one of his friends who happened to be female, which was fine, except that for some unknown reason, he felt the need to clarify, “I have lots of friends who are girls.”
I analyzed that one all the way home, and for the next few days. What was his point in telling me that??! I was convinced it was his subtle way of letting me know I was just one of the masses of other girls he spent time with as friends. Maybe he was making sure I didn’t read anything into going out for coffee, and get the wrong idea.
That was 17 years ago, but I remember it clearly. I can still feel that wave of disappointment as I sat there feeling foolish for ever thinking there was anything beyond friendship going on between us. How could I have misread everything?! Obviously Ben, with his MASSIVE fan club, was out of my league…
Ben, on the other hand, does not remember a thing. He has absolutely no idea why he said it. And then a month later, he asked me out on our first date, and I was no longer just one of the crowd of girls he was friends with. Lucky me.;)
I think about this sometimes, because it amazes me how crazy communication can be. How we can say something in the moment, meaning nothing serious by it, but the other person can take it COMPLETELY the wrong way? How can one sentence can be taken deeply into the heart, while the other doesn’t even remember saying it?
I think about grumpy waitresses, or sales people who seem incredibly rude, and I struggle with keeping a good attitude in spite of their responses to me. Or I think about those mornings when I am completely frazzled by the time I get all three kids out the door, and we’re not operating at our peak – there are probably times when we cross paths with people who hear something different coming out of my mouth than what I’m actually meaning for them to hear.
There’s this fantastic scene in the movie “What About Bob?” where he is explaining how he deals with these kinds of situations:
“I treat people as if they were telephones – don’t break the connection, just hang up and try again.”
Sometimes I hope people will hang up and try again with me! And often I think of needing to forget an unfortunate encounter with someone, and give them a second chance.
Sometimes, I still misunderstand Ben, and need to unravel the emotions that get fired up in the miscommunication.
I realize there are people who know how to do this very naturally (because I live with one of them!), but then there are those of us who need a lot of self-talk to remind ourselves not to take everything quite so seriously, and to hang up and try again!;)