Several weeks ago a friend electronically introduced me to a woman and suggested that we meet for coffee. I called her and left a message. She called me back and left a message. I sent her a note asking if it would be okay to just use email to schedule. She said yes and after a couple rounds we agreed on a date, time, and place. Her confirming note said “let’s remind each other the day before…” which was about two weeks from then.
So, the day before, in between a flight and a dinner meeting, I dropped her a quick note confirming the meeting time for the next day.
I arrived home at midnight to a blistering email from her that my lack of communication in the intervening 10 days was unacceptable and offensive, cold, business like and well short of the target if I was hoping to meet the “woman of my dreams”. Yikes!
Two old tapes immediately began to roll… “Vince, you don’t love well,” and “If a woman is upset, you must have done something wrong.” But then, I stopped. And took a breath.
“What’s really going on here?”
And then, some new tapes began to roll… “Huh. Isn’t it interesting that she has found that my way of communicating doesn’t work for her. Certainly happy to discover that sooner than later!” It was one of those “just because she has said I screwed up doesn’t mean I screwed up…” moments.
The long and short of it is that I sent her a brief note back affirming her desire to connect with a guy who communicates in a certain way, and that my choice was to pass on any effort to “make it right” as she had offered. It wasn’t about her being right and me being wrong, or vice versa.
What’s the learning?
When we notice that the old tapes are beginning to roll… for whatever reason… it’s almost always a good opportunity to stop and take a look at the data. To move from the story we start to make up and the emotion of the moment and instead look at the recordable facts and the inarguable truths. To look for our part in the dynamic. To discover the interesting nugget. To get curious and load up a new tape grounded in maturity and choice.