This is not an easy lesson for me to learn. I have tendencies to feel like I am a bother to others, an inconvenience. As if they don’t really like or want me, like I’m not good enough.
As such, asking for things feels like a huge burden to place upon someone else. Why would they do anything for me, I think, they won’t get anything out of it; all I will do is bother and upset them. This is, of course, nonsense, and a remarkably cynical view on people in general, and in particular on one’s friends and partners. To think that the people who invest their time and energy to interact with you don’t really like or care about you is a very twisted line of thought.
It’s insidious, as well, in that it affects interactions and communications with those people when you do go so far as to ask for what you want. That communication, to avoid your wants appearing “burdensome”, can be twisted into vagueness, infused with weasel-words, and generally set in the manner of “Oh, I don’t want to bother you, but….” It’s very passive-aggressive, and even has the unfortunate effect of implying to the other person that you feel THEY don’t like to do things for you, to go out of their way for you, that they feel you are an inconvenience. What a terrible thing to put upon another person who is supposed to matter to you! And then when they react badly (as they well might, and not without justification), it feeds into a vicious cycle, as now you have evidence that asking for things only results in hurt feelings and inconvenience.
This then infects your other communication – you begin to feel saying anything is a bother, and you hesitate until the last minute to say things, or you avoid it completely until suddenly there are harsh consequences for you having said nothing.
Soon enough communication is an afterthought, and things just begin slipping your mind left and right. You’re unreliable. Your actions, though rooted in fear, appear to others as if you don’t care. As if you can’t be bothered to put in the effort. And the loss and hurt piles on.
Ask for what you want, in clear terms, as soon as you know what it is. Be direct in your communication, not passive. In More Than Two by Franking Veaux and Eve Rickert, there is an excellent chapter on communication where they highlight the differences between direct communication and passive communication. Strive to be direct in all your communication; passive communication leads to confusion, to misunderstandings, and to hurt feelings.
And begin by doing. Don’t spend idle time thinking about how you’ll communicate. Don’t waste minutes or hours in daydreaming about how your interactions will be. Aside from understanding your feeling and motivations, or being aware of your words, don’t sit there and think, think, think about what your communication will be. You’ll just up your anxiety, build up imagined ideas of negative results in your head, build hurt mountains out of word molehills in your mind and then be back at the start, fearing saying or asking anything. (What has seemed to work really well for me very recently is a technique called noting, learned through meditation, to dismiss negative thoughts as they pop up.)
As before, I write this blog post for me, to get my thoughts out and at my own self, but if you read this and it helps you, then I will be glad.