I called Maya at college one day recently, and could tell with her first sentence that something was off. She finally admitted that she was stressing out over a conversation she had just had with a co-worker.
The details aren’t really important, but she basically hadn’t followed up entirely on something with this guy and he ended up doing work that didn’t need to be done. And, she felt like he must’ve been so frustrated with her that he wanted to kill her. She felt awful. And, likely because of an entire childhood of her being raised by ME, a guilt dropping mother, she was basically frozen sitting there feeling so bad about messing up and wasting his time on something that he never really needed to do.
When it first happened, Maya apologized immediately, but she didn’t really explain how badly she felt. So, I ended up suggesting to her that she call him. I, specifically, told her not to text because so much can get lost through text. She did call, told him how badly she felt about the whole thing, and he said what I told her was likely the case: she shouldn’t feel that bad, he appreciated the call, and that it wasn’t a big deal at all.
The whole thing just reminded me how much we create in our own head. How much anxiety and anticipation we are walking around with, when other people are in a totally different headspace about something than we are. We “think” that whatever we’re thinking is fact, and there’s really no way it could be anything else. But, what we’re thinking, is just that: our own thoughts. And, we all have our own thoughts.
Having said that, there are plenty of times when we’re right. Other people are, in fact, feeling frustrated with our inefficiencies and/or times when something we do negatively affects them in some way.
In my experience, though, what people really care about is just knowing that you care. They don’t need a fix for a problem you created, necessarily; they just want to know that you know you messed up, and that you feel really bad about it. That’s all. They just want to hear words, sincere words, that show you noticed what you did…and, that you care. About them.
It’s so simple and so easy, and it changes everything.