For weeks I have been dreading the fact that I’m faced with a very delicate situation. The worst part is that I’ve known for a while that it was coming. I’d rehearsed the conversation in my head and all that had done was confirm to me that the reaction on the other side was going to be BAD.
Pretty much every year for the past 8 years I’ve gone to a Summer music festival. Sometimes there’s a group of us, but without fail, I’ll attend one festival or another with one friend in particular; no matter what our work, relationship or family situation, we’ve always been able to count on each other for our annual festival fun.
Serendipitously, the first year we went to Glastonbury, we stumbled across a nearby B&B which offered warm beds, warm showers and hot breakfasts and that became the way we rolled for the next 7 years. As someone who experiences genuine panic at the thought of real camping and all its incumbent risks, our arrangements have always suited me perfectly.
Then this year, we decided to try out another boutique UK festival. Three of us booked our tickets months ago and agreed to review the accommodation options nearer the time.
The thing is, over the past few months my friend has made it absolutely clear that she is dead set on REAL CAMPING.
In short, I don’t remotely share her camping enthusiasm.
For one, I don’t have or want a tent, a sleeping bag or any other camping paraphernalia.
Yet, as a conditioned people pleaser, for the past 3 weeks I have been typically avoiding the conversation and brushing away the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomache.
Then about 2 weeks ago something changed. I realized that I had been working extraordinarily hard to build my business for over a year now (alongside various other significant changes that have been going on in my life) and I decided that I deserved an opportunity to totally switch-off from everything on my time away and I had earned the money to pay for whatever level of comfort I wanted.
But I totally anticipated an argument between my friend and I if I brought it up.
Enter my coach:
Coach: “I’m curious, what makes you think that there’ll be an argument or an atmosphere?”
Anna: “I just know her. We’ve been friends for years. She’ll be frustrated or disappointed that things aren’t panning out as she’d envisaged and she’ll direct that at me. She’ll say I’m being irrational.”
Coach: “I understand that you really value this friendship and that it’s also important to you to have your needs met in this situation. What might help your conversation with her?”
Anna: “I guess I haven’t spoken to her for a few weeks because I’ve been afraid to address this. Now that I think about it, I haven’t actually taken the time to explain to her why I place such a high value on being able to totally switch off for 4-days in relative comfort.”
Coach: “So, what do you think would happen if you took the time to explain it to her?”
Anna: “I think it would be easier for her to understand my reasoning, especially since she’s been very present with me in my life throughout the past year. Communicating more openly will definitely give her an opportunity to see things a little more from my perspective and she might even be happy to stay in the B&B if we’re close by – who knows? I mean, she’s my friend after all.“
SHE’S MY FRIEND AFTER ALL.
Oh yeah, I’d forgotten that. I had been so busy playing out the phantom argument in my head and avoiding the imagined conflict that I hadn’t taken the time to ask her what actually mattered to her. I’d completely lost sight of the fact that this is someone that I really really care about and that I know really cares about me too. A visceral wave of gratitude washed over me as I recalled how awesome of a friend she is and I got in touch with her that day.
A few days ago we finally met for lunch and after we’d caught up on everything else, I brought the festival conversation up. I shared the feelings I’d been having and I laid out the options for her.
Was she thrilled about it? Not particularly.
As predicted, she was frustrated. Her heart had been set on us camping together and she started to go down the route of “had I known this was going to happen, I may not have booked my ticket in the first place”.
So given that she ended up being irritated and reactive in the conversation anyway, you might wonder why I’m even writing about this.
What really struck me was how I experienced the whole situation:
- For one, by replacing my belief about the phantom argument to a belief that we could have a loving and level-headed conversation, I unburdened myself of the imagined conflict in the weeks leading up to the conversation;
- It motivated me to have the conversation with her and gave me an opportunity to be honest, open and to ask for what I needed; and
- I hadn’t felt compelled to compromise what was important to me by reactively caretaking her or our relationship; I paid attention to my needs.
In the end, all I really did was give her the dignity of making a choice about how she prioritized what she valued. As it happens, since two of us are going to book a room near to the site, she now has a veritable array of options, including staying with us for all or part of the time.
So this week……
Think about the stories you are telling yourself in your head and……..
- Be aware how often they can trick us into thinking that they are a forgone conclusion;
- Look at how much energy the story takes up and what sort of impact it has on your relationships; and
- Remind yourself that you cannot control others words, actions or reactions. You can only be true to yourself in any given situation.
Remember that care-taking, controlling or manipulating others is actually denying them a choice. By being honest, open and approaching conversations with love, everybody gets to make the choice that best supports the experience that they most want to have. You might even be surprised to find that solutions then present themselves that you had never imagined possible.