Let me tell you a story. Last week, I received an email with an invitation to co-teach at a studio I love with a friend whom I love. I immediately accepted the co-teaching invitation. Yays all around!
The next day my friend replied to the email. She had included a list of ideas for solo workshops.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. We’d been asked to teach together. Why was she pitching solo projects?
I was hurt. Angry. Confused.
“She doesn’t want to work with me,” I thought. “She doesn’t like teaching with me. I’m too high-maintenance. Too anal about preparation. Too bossy. Just….too TOO. In general.”
I teared up. I knew I should say something. That would be the advice I’d give to a client. Only–a few weeks ago there had been a different issue with this same friend. I’d been upset. I’d said something then. Now I was upset again. Wasn’t all this communicating I was doing getting old?
“I’m too prickly. Too hard to get along with,” I thought. “That’s why she doesn’t want to teach with me–because I’m always getting upset about something.“
Do you see how much narrative I’d already created around this one email? Narrative that was 100% my own creation?
“I’m not going to say anything,” I decided, feeling self-conscious about having recently broached an issue. “No, instead I will just pull away from the friendship.”
Yup, that was my plan. My perfectly
rational insane plan.
By the end of the day the voice of reason kicked in. I realized I had to say something–even at the risk of appearing high-maintenance. The reason I was upset in the first place is that the friendship is important to me. I wrote back to her:
“Hey, I’m happy that you want to branch out… When we receive invitations addressed to the both of us can we address with each other before pitching solo projects that could compromise the original invitation? That feels awkward to me. “
“Yes, of course. I’m confused, though… I thought she was inviting us to pitch stuff to her together AND individually. In my response, I wanted to indicate that while I had ideas for solo programs, I love working with you and would be happy to do so again and again! Seems like instead I came off as using our joint invitation as a springboard for my own interests. That’s not at all what I wanted to do, quite the contrary, and I’m so sorry it came off that way.”
I went back and re-read the original letter. There it was. Right in the last paragraph was the question I’d entirely missed in my first reading: “Would you guys rather present independently?”
Now it made sense.
My friend hadn’t been prioritizing business over me–I’d made a mistake! She’d just been answering the question she was asked. In fact, she had thought I was pitching solo work.
To think–I almost hadn’t said anything. I might have been stupid enough to pull away from a friendship that is incredibly important to me. All because of one stinking misread email! And I was the one who’d done the misreading!
The moral of this story is that even when it feels uncomfortable or foolish, speaking up is usually a good idea. (I’m not suggesting speaking up any old way but in a skillful way. Maybe I’ll post some pointers another time.) Skillful communication honors our feelings without letting our possibly unfounded narrative run the show.
Sure, we might piss someone off but it’s a risk worth taking. Speaking up honors the relationship. It says: “This matters to me. I matter. You matter too. You matter enough that I am willing to risk making you mad. I am willing to risk looking foolish; willing to risk appearing high-maintenance, wounded, or needy.”
Hey, even professionals need a little
refresher course sanity check sometimes.
Can you think of a time when your instinct was to say nothing–and you went with it? How did your silence affect the relationship? Can you think of a time when your instinct was to say nothing but you spoke up instead? Post your blog link or leave a comment below to tell us your story.
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