The other day, someone I barely know but whom I have been working with sporadically the last few weeks told me that I was incredibly difficult. They said I was off-putting and pushy. They said we would never be friends if we were ever to meet. They said I didn’t ever ask for advice and was incredibly opinionated.
As they continued, I sat on the phone with my mouth agape. I wanted to cry. I thought I was being incredibly calm and open. I thought I was acting maturely and, although I did ask a lot of questions to make sure that I understood, I thought I was, well, basically… kind.
I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to bring up old discussions we had had to prove that I was the “good” person…. and that actually they were to blame. I wanted to make my points. I wanted to be exonerated.
Instead… I just listened. I sat and let the words wash over me. It felt like I was standing under a waterfall.
Am I a nice person?
I told some people about what had happened with that acquaintance and they stuck up for me. “Well, that’s not true at all! You know that, right?”, “We are living in trying times”, “It’s hard being a strong woman”, “Everyone’s angry right now, it’s not you”. These people love me… and really… what were they going to say? I’m a terror?
I wanted to side with my friends. I wanted to agree with how they defended me. I wanted them to continue to know how “good” I was.
Instead… I just listened. Again, the words washed over me.
The Harsh & The Kind.
Could both sides be right?
Could a friend and an acquaintance be correct at the same time?
Could I accept both the harsh and the kind?
I bet there are people reading this right now, people who know me that are saying “thank goodness someone told her the truth. I’ve wanted to tell her for a long time that she’s (fill in your own adjective)”
I realize those adjectives can be objectively “good” or “bad” and I see now that I’m an evolving mixed bag. I can’t actually control what people think – whether they find me difficult or wonderful. All I can do is learn and use what I can to be the best person possible. I want to live honestly with compassion, curiosity, intentionality and strength. I realize that, perhaps, that will not always look “neat” or “nice”, but if I can use and integrate all input from all people, I can continue to grow and stay committed to openness.
Basically, I can continue to listen.
Too much talking can drive some people batty
By ALISON MARTIN
Alison Martin -- wife, mom, Emmy-award winning actress, writer, chocoholic. Bronx Italian, daughter of Pultizer Prize winning reporters, who also identifies as L.A. Irish. Shout outs: Dan, Emilia, Brady, pooches - LuLu & Ted, friends, Mother Earth, serendipity, peace, VIPHS, Boldfaced Secret, living life like your socks feel real good.
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