Picture this: You are in the middle of texting your friend or partner. You say something genuine with good intention. They say something…different…from what you might have wanted in response. Not necessarily unkind, probably not intended the way you took it, but…definitely not what you wanted to read and likely eliciting some negative emotions.
What happens now?
Do you assume you know the meaning of their message?
Do you proceed to let them have it without a thought?
Do you change your original messaging to “match” your newfound anger / resent? (i.e. “maybe I’ll let them suffer a bit, not respond for a long while”…“maybe I’ll show an equal amount of aloofness so as not to seem more eager / interested than they are”… something to this effect?)
If so, what are the consequences?
Often, our in-built self-absorption leads us to jump to false conclusions. Our partner / friend did not, in fact, mean what we thought they did. There were other (read: not about us) factors at play.
In most cases, your partner / friend is having a hard moment. And what they really need from the person who purportedly loves them is the opposite of what or how we’ve rashly written them back.
The worst consequence, though, the one that’s almost never considered, is how being reactionary in our attempt to match the other’s “tone” shatters both our integrity and autonomy. Instead of holding true to the ways I want to be in this world, I’ve allowed someone else to determine my own words or behaviours. Usually without so much as a thought.
This may seem trivial. It’s one, but fleeting, interaction in a sea of others, no?
But is it one interaction? I want us to be really honest with ourselves about just how often we allow our responses to be reactionary. How many times a day are we letting the negative moods or attitudes of others affect our being, usually unconsciously so? Let’s consider the ripple effects of that collective reflex.
Mindfulness, as always, can offer us something huge here. It’s not just a change in mindset, it’s a very tangible, practical change.
When we practice awareness of the present moment, we can take a breath, a pause, a moment to reflect. Now, we can choose to respond in a way that is both self-determined and empathic. We can show up as ourselves, with love, rooted and unswayed.
So much can happen in that short, here-and-now, pause.
And I’m going to live the rest of my days trying to get better at remembering to take it.