Growing up I had always had some sort of issue with friends. Whether it be being picked on or excluded, it was tough for me emotionally and socially as a child. I clearly remember at the age of six crying myself to sleep and exclaiming that “no one liked me” to my mother. As terrible as that was, I like to think I’ve grown to be a strong woman with a pretty thick skin. I hope my children will develop a thick skin as well, as the social climate has not seem to gotten any better. Now we just have more social mediums to use to hurt each other.
Speaking of social mediums, we have social media, email, text, phone calls and in-person conversation. While they all have their benefits there are some downfalls when you cannot see a person’s reactions or hear their voice. Conversations via electronic mediums often get lost in translation. For example, you can write a whole message about yourself, but it can get construed into a message about someone else. How this happens, I’m not quite sure, but it can create a great deal of issues. Those issues can include: conflict resolution, emotions, and trust when the message is confused because there is no follow-up or clarification on a part of the message that may be questionable. There can also be confusion in the tone of an electronic message.
As I have become an adult I’ve also tried to be more communicative in the face of confrontation and conflict resolution. There was recently an incident where I was not as strong as I felt I should have been. Instead I was made to feel ashamed of stating my feelings. I was made to feel this way because a message I sent was misconstrued. As a result I was told that I was wrong in stating my feelings rather than having a follow up conversation on what I had meant. I did try to stand up for myself and explained that it was not the intent of my message. But it was too late as I was already too far into being shamed and judged for it.
I found this behavior kind of a “mean girl” approach, telling me what wasn’t appropriate and being reprimanded for sharing a “negative feeling.” As an adult I feel like I should be way past this, and I’m not sure why someone thought it was ok to reprimand an adult for sharing that feeling rather than asking why I had felt that way or why I had stated the feeling in that message.
There are a few pieces by other contributors about empathy (here & here) and I think they are great. We CANNOT lose empathy. We do not need to choose to be more empathetic to one person over another if a conflict arises. We need to keep communication open and if you are unclear, just ask what the person means.
It never hurts to ask the questions and to have a clear message to move forward. The more open we are in our communication to one another and the more empathetic we are to each other the stronger our relationships and friendships will be.