You Don’t Want to Hurt Their Feelings (Part 2)
In the last gem, I talked about how wanting to disconnect from someone is about you, not the other person. It's about your needs.
The tricky part is disconnecting in a connecting and honest way.
Believe it or not this has been one of the most difficult expressions for me to find words for. I realized that most often in my life that I have just avoided someone rather than express that I don't want to be friends. This doesn't meet my needs for honesty and integrity.
After much reflection, I finally came back to aliveness. Aliveness is a more general way to speak about feelings and needs. When I reflect on my own struggle with a person who is requesting a friendship with me, I realize that I have been all over the map – judging and analyzing her, judging myself, considering my needs and considering hers. It hasn't helped me find my way to expression.
However, when I do some basic observations regarding our interactions, (e.g. what she talks about, what she does with her free time, what questions she asks of me), I notice that what is alive for her is not alive for me.
You might be saying "Duh, LaShelle, that's basics – you don't have much in common." True, this is pretty basic stuff. It seems like the basic stuff is hard to get to when emotions are involved. Not wanting to "hurt her feelings", that is, feeling worried because of my needs for honesty and to contribute to her well being, my mind moved to its habitual problem solving strategy – analyzing her and me. This is not only ineffective, it also feels yucky!
Grounded in the basics of neutral observations and what's alive this how the conversation might sound:
Her: So when are we getting together?
Me: Hmm, you know what I have been noticing is that it is really alive for you to talk about politics, gender differences, the differences between various world cultures and what you like and don't like about them, and the latest music you have discovered. These are passions for you. You light up when you talk about them.
For me there isn't aliveness around these things. So when we are together I feel disconnected because I am missing a sharing about something that is important to both of us. I am wondering if I am being clear, can you tell me what you are getting from what I am saying?
Her: You are not interested in what I am interested in and you feel disconnected when you are with me.
Me: So it's not alive for me to get together cuz it seems to me that we just have different interests.
Her: Oh, okay.
If this person has been in your life a long time, I am imagine the dialogue might continue and you might get to more specific feelings and needs, but for someone new in your life just some clear observations free of judgment and your aliveness about them is likely enough.
You can't prevent this person from hearing you with jackal* ears. No matter how neutral and specific your observations, they may think you are judging their interests as foolish and thus feel hurt. Seeing hurt in their face, you might offer empathy, "Some disappointment for you?" or "You're maybe hearing what I say as a judgment so some hurt comes up?" You can also remain silent saying a prayer in your heart for them to find happiness and holding a faith that they will recover from this momentary hurt (and later most likely feel relieved about their need for clarity being met).
Take a moment now to reflect on a similar situation in your own life. Is there someone in your life seeking connection with you that you have been avoiding? Make three neutral observations regarding your interactions with them and notice where your aliveness is. See if you can just notice your lack of aliveness, without making a value judgment about who they are or the choices they make.
*jackals refer to any language or thoughts that disconnect us from life. **giraffe refers to shifting into an interest in connecting to the feelings and needs in yourself and others. ***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs