I talk a lot about emotional awareness and management information from a self perspective. In my previous blog post, Castings Shadows I talked about how aware we are and how we manage the shadows that emotions cast over us. When you know what to look for you can see emotion everywhere. You can see emotion in the face, hear it in the voice and see it in the body. There are times when people will want you to know how they are feeling and times when it is not appropriate to fish and to find out how they are feeling.
I remember when a colleague of mine came to me at work and I said, “Morning, how are you?” She said, “Yeah, I’m okay thanks,” and as she said the words “Okay” her voice changed (her pitch dropped) and at the same time there was movement of being angry and saying (what I thought was) “Pull it together,” on her face. I thought you are not okay, something is wrong so I probed further to which she said, “Nothing is wrong, I’m fine, I’m fine”. As she was saying, “I’m fine, I’m fine” her head was shaking from side to side as if she were saying “No”. Again, I probed for the third time and she responded, “Look Phil, I don’t want to talk about it, leave me alone.” Then she turned around and walked out of the office.
That morning will always stick with me, she was upset, she knew that I knew she was upset but she didn’t want to talk, she wasn’t ready to talk and even if she was ready she might not have wanted to talk to me. So as good as I maybe with emotion and emotional awareness, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to talk.
When she came in the next day, I said, “Hi, are you alright?” Again her pitch and body language changed and she had the same movement in her eyes but she replied, “Yeah, I’m okay”. My thought was I don’t think you are okay but I said, “If there is something you want to talk about, whether that be personal or professional then I am here for you because I want you to be happy and help you be as effective as you can be at work. If you’re not happy at home or at work then this will affect your performance, I want to let you know that if there was anything you wanted to talk about then I’m here”.
About a week later she asked if I was free for a chat. We went off, had a conversation about some of the personal challenges she had been facing over the past few weeks and she shared how it had meant a lot to her for me to say, “When you are ready, I’m here”.
More recently, someone I’ve been working with for nearly 9 months has been showing me, over the last four times we’ve met, that they are in distress. I see the call for help; very fast movements of raising the inner part of the eyebrow, lip corners pulled down for a fraction of a second then back to normal and breathiness in the voice when a particular topic is discussed. Yet only now, on meeting five did they articulate that. It was done in a really innocuous way as ‘Can we have a quick chat?’ and yet I had a feeling, this was it.
So, learning from my past experience (above) I began with ‘what did you want to talk about?’. Then I got worried as I saw it, the thought ‘I’m scared’. More specifically I saw the eyes widen the lip corners pull back and the body tighten. Still, I had to sit with the fact that this is not my news, not my knowledge, it has to come from them. So, we talked about other stuff for a bit and when that topic was done, I said ‘what else’ and let the silence hold……………….. and hold…………… *I could see the internal grappling ‘do I share, not share, share, not share’* so I let the silence hold some more and the decision was made…
‘I need out. I’m done, I can’t stay here any more. It’s slowly killing me.’
I will stop sharing the narrative there as the rest isn’t relevant to this post. What is relevant is that despite my core purpose ‘creating happiness’ and all of my knowledge and skills, it had to be when the other person was ready.
That is the hardest part of knowing what I know, doing what I do, being who I am, living my purpose and still stepping away when I see people in need. There are times when put simply, it is none of my business. It’s taken me a lot of mistakes to learn that and what a powerful lesson.
When do you ask for more?
Have you ever asked before someone was ready? What was the reaction?
How east is it to sit with that fact it is none of your business?