1. People & Relationships
Cherie Burbach

Communication Is Within Your Control

By December 1, 2013

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I hear from a lot of you that one frustrating thing about dealing with other people (even your friends) is that plans change or people change their minds, but they don't tell you about it. You have to find out because they posted on Facebook or just left you to assume, perhaps because they felt uncomfortable telling you and ended up telling everyone else instead.

It isn't the change of plans or having friends change their minds on what they do that is irritating (and sometimes hurtful), it's the fact that instead of just telling you, they acted weird or stupid or childish and made something that wasn't really a problem into something that became a huge problem.

Then, they got mad because you reacted badly.

Sound familiar? This happens in friendship not because friends are trying to be mean, but because they are thinking of themselves first and not communicating properly.

For example, let's say you and a friend mentioned briefly that you'd spend dinner together in two weeks. You follow up with them a few days after that with an email that says, "I'm looking forward to dinner. Any ideas on where to go?"

And then.... nothing.

You hear nothing back. You figure, okay, they're busy. You wait.

But now other people are asking what you're doing for that day, and you have to tell them you're "probably" going to do something with your friend. You send another email to your friend, and also a text saying, "Hey, what's going on for Saturday? Are we still on? Let's talk about where to meet."

And you hear.... nothing.

You follow up a few days later (again!) with another email and your friend says, "Oh, I need your phone number."

You have no idea what this means. They have your phone number. Are they too lazy to look it up? What does that mean, I need your phone number. Does it mean that you two are still on?

In the meantime, you turn down another invitation, because you're still under the impression that you're doing something with your friend.

Two days later you call your friend and leave a message. And hear... nothing.

Finally, the night before, when you've turned down other plans, you make one more call to your friend, who says, "Why are you bothering me so much? You're so high maintenance. We said we were going to get together, but now, I don't even feel like it."

And you two have an argument that makes your friendship difficult from that point on, because all you wanted was communication. If your friend had just communicated in some way to let you know what was going on, things would be fine.

But they didn't. They didn't because perhaps they didn't "feel" like thinking about making plans until they were "ready." It was their timetable they were worried about, not yours.

Perhaps they are the type of person that says things they don't mean, like "yeah, let's do dinner next Saturday" when in fact they don't mean it. They are careless with their words.

Maybe they just weren't sure they wanted to do dinner, but they didn't want to be left without something to do if they told you that and you ended up making other plans, so they kept stringing you along by not communicating. If they just told you the truth in the beginning, ("I'm not sure I'll feel like dinner"), you would have made plans. But they weren't thinking about you. It was all about them.

And maybe they are the type of person that can't make plans. Maybe they fly by the seat of their pants and love last minute activities and when someone tries to set a date on the calendar they think that person is being rigid.

In other words, your friend is worried about their schedule, their attitude, their feelings...

Understandably, you get irritated, and you might even end the friendship. But all of this could have been avoided if your friend had just communicated effectively.

Bottom line, be diligent about communication. Words do have the power to harm, but so does a lack of attention. If a friend is upset with you because they feel you haven't communicated, stop and listen to them. Change the way you're communicating (use the phone instead of email, or Facebook instead of texting). Try your best to communicate properly, and you'll avoid simple misunderstandings and hurting your friend's feelings.

Related: The Golden Rule | How to Be on Time | How to Be Self-Aware

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