Sometimes it can be hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective, especially if it concerns your relationship with them. Here’s a thought exercise for those who feel rejected when good friends are too busy to text or call or see them for a short period of time:
Imagine your busiest day ever.
You have to wake up over an hour earlier than normal because you have a big project due at work, which includes making a presentation, something you’re not totally experienced at, and you went to bed in the wee hours because you were working on another project.
You don’t have time to finish your coffee. (No coffee!)
You race to work and you hear the familiar, usually comforting ping of your phone telling you there’s a text. You glance at it and see it’s from someone you’re close to but you simply can’t text back because your hand is on the door to the presentation room.
Now, imagine you’re in the room and you get up to make your presentation. All eyes are on you and you are hoping this presentation might even lead to a promotion or at least some well-deserved recognition. You say a little prayer, step forward and Pingggg! anotehr text, then Pinggg! Pinggg! two more follow in quick succession. Your phone begins to ring, next. You grab it (how could I leave it at my seat, you wonder) and turn it off and head back up front again.
The presentation goes well, without a hitch, but your anxiety level is high. Your spouse calls and asks how it went. This is the only non-work person you can speak to today because, well, they are your other half. Plus you know they care. You tell them great, but you’ve got to run, and you hang up, but the phone rings again. Before you realize that it’s not your spouse you pick up and it’s your friend.
“I can’t talk,” you tell her, “I’m just too busy.”
“But I need to talk,” she wails.
This is a friend who is going through a perennially hard time, and you feel for her and care about her but you just have to focus on work today and not get caught up in her problems.
“Am I selfish” you wonder, but then you realize, telling yourself: “No. I have a job to do. I am nearly always there for her, and besides, she knows I care. It’s pretty much guaranteed that in the imbalance of our relationship, she is calling about herself, not to ask how I am, and for once I’m going to put myself first. I simply have to meet my work deadlines and any other time I have I must use for my needs.”
Without saying much, just mumbling a “Sorry, but I am too busy to talk,” you hang up.
You work hard all day, pick up something for dinner, and get home late. Your spouse is also running late, you gulp down food together and each spend the night at your desks, working away.
No, this isn’t an ideal way to spend the evening, but you know you’re not a workaholic, you generally have balance, this is just a week of projects.
Next morning, you sleep late a little bit, taking a much-needed mini-vacation over breakfast. You gave yourself 45 minutes, but it lasts less than five minutes. Why? Because the phone rings again. It’s her on your land line this time.
She hangs up when you don’t answer and tries your cell. When you don’t answer that, she texts. Your blood pressure goes up. Maybe it’s a crisis?
You look at the text: I need to talk to you.
But, there’s no other info.
You text her back: Just because I don’t call you back for one day doesn’t mean I don’t care. I do care, but I don’t have time for you right at the moment. I am there for you all the time, but right now I need a couple of days to focus on work and any free time, I must use for personal time, for me.
Next time someone doesn’t return your call, or lets you down in any way, especially someone who has been there for you in the past, give them the benefit of the doubt. Try a thought exercise and spend a minute in their shoes.