A few weeks ago, I was angry with a friend because I asked her if we were still meeting the next day, and she said she hadn’t known that we had made plans. I was extremely confused by this. In the last week we had spoken about meeting up, and so I was hurt that she had forgotten.
For about an hour after she told me that she hadn’t known about the plans, I was angry. I planned to stay angry. To me, it felt that she had forgotten about me, and I clearly wasn’t important.
Despite having these thoughts, however, there was still a part of me that knew that they were wrong. My friend wouldn’t purposely stand me up. There must have been some sort of underlying problem.
After thinking about it a bit, and remembering an occasion where this had happened before, I realised that we probably had a different understanding of what ‘making a plan’ meant. I had spent the whole of the week before implying that we were meeting up, but I had never actually stated that we were meeting on ‘Tuesday at 2’. In my friend’s eyes then, I was just throwing ideas up into the air, and I probably wasn’t serious about them.
I raised this possibility with her, and she agreed that that was the reason why there had been a misunderstanding. I thought that there had been a plan, so it felt as if she had stood me up, but she hadn’t known about the plan and so couldn’t understand why I was upset. We realised then that if we wanted to avoid this issue in the future, we would have to improve our communication style. I said that I would try to be more assertive when planning something (something I struggle with), and she said in the future she would interpret my ‘implications’ as something more serious. I was proud of us for handling the situation so maturely and coming up with a solution. We could have given each other the silent treatment the whole night, but that wouldn’t have solved anything.
To me, this story reminds me of the importance of communication. For one, instead of just assuming what others’ thoughts and intentions are, it’s a lot more constructive to pick up the phone and ask. “I feel hurt because this, this and this, but I realise that I may have interpreted the situation incorrectly. I don’t think you meant to hurt me. How are you feeling? How can we fix this?”
Secondly, I’ve realise that if I don’t communicate effectively, and somebody misinterprets my intentions, then it is my responsibility to change the way I communicate. Opening up to my friend about why I struggle with assertiveness has really helped in this regard because I feel like it’s something we can work through together. It’s great having a friend who is non-judgemental and supportive.
What are your thoughts on communication though? When there is miscommunication, who has a responsibility to fix it?