What meaning do you give to your story?
Let me share with you a story.
You are walking down the High Street, with traffic along the road and surrounded by a few other shoppers. Your mood is buoyant. It’s a good day. You look across and notice your friend on the other side of the road and smile and wave to attract her attention. No response. You try a bit harder to attract her attention, by gestating more wildly. Your friend is now looking in your direction, straight at you, and then just looks away without acknowledging you, and carries on walking past.
What are you feeling?
What are you thinking?
What do you tell yourself?
Did your thoughts and feelings go out to your friend in that she looked distracted, possibility worried or do you reject her, for rejecting you? What did you tell yourself and what meaning did you give it?
This happened to me recently. But I was the person who didn’t notice my friend frantically trying to catch my attention.
Why? I was mentally running through a coaching workshop coming up later that week – practising it in my mind. When I do this I am self-absorbed, totally self-absorbed, I just don’t notice what is going on around me, which at times is scary – particularly with traffic!
Now my friend rang me up later, and in her inimical fashion said “What was up with you yesterday when I saw you in the High Street? Miserable git! You just ignored me. Looked straight through me and ignored me!”
I twigged what my friend was talking about – which took a few minutes – memory not so good nowadays. I have difficulties remember what I did half an hour ago – let alone yesterday. After apologising profusely, explaining why I hadn’t noticed her, my friend said the real reason she rang was that she was worried about me and “was I OK?”
But what could have happened if she hadn’t rung me?
The worse case scenario – the loss of a friendship with neither of us really knowing why? Sound familiar and all because of the story we can tell our self and the meaning we give to that story when confronted with an unexplained situation that affects us emotionally. A story that’s so often based on supposition (guess work) or a response to how we reacted to something similar in the past, or that learnt behaviour as a child repeating the same record, the same negative response, the same damaging outcome.
What could we do differently? Simply ask? Easy to say, not always easy to do. But in asking, in a non-threatening, caring way, we have the chance to communicate and understand, as opposed to a story based on an uninformed emotional reaction.