“Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.”
-Laura Ingalls Wilder
I started a women’s group a few months ago- it’s called Women in Conversation. It’s a group coaching session focused on communication.
Our next group is about clarity and expectation. I started thinking about my own conflicts because starting with me is the best way I know how to start. I wondered about what I say, how I say it, if I expect everyone around me to be mind readers instead of listeners or companions. How often do you say with outer clarity what you expect?
For example… if I am going out for a run and I want the house to be picked up when I get home I have 2 options: 1) do it myself or 2) ask my family for help. So, I ask for help. “Hey, will you guys straighten up the house when I’m gone?” “We sure can.” You can probably guess what happens next- I get home, the house looks nothing like I thought it would, and I’m frustrated and annoyed.
In my old way of thinking this is their fault. They said they would do something for me, and they didn’t do it my way. Obviously they don’t know me or love me. (which I know is not true when I’m not strung out by feeling unseen and unloved) Now everyone’s cranky, and on separate sides, and we have to find a way to repair the tear in the day. So I apologize because I’m the one who caused the problem. When we feel let down we seem to need someone to be wrong…we feel wronged, so shouldn’t someone own up to it?
Here’s the deal: they did what I asked their way. This is the very important part of the story. Because I wasn’t clear about exactly what I wanted (the coffee table cleared off and wiped down, the mail sorted and put away, the floor swept, and the counters cleared and wiped) that isn’t what got done. They did other stuff- the stuff that felt like straightening up to them. And because stating expectation feels a lot like asking for help I try to do it as fast and as briefly as possible so it’s not a burden.
If you’re like me, asking for help is tough. What it actually is versus what it seems like are such different things.
What Asking for Help Actually is: asking for help.
What Asking for Help Seems Like: I’m letting you know I’m stupid and incapable and also that I have no clue what’s going on or what I’m doing ever. I’m so vulnerable that I might as well be outside naked dripping wet in a blizzard in front of a crowd of people laughing and pointing at me. Helpless. Help Less. Seen but unseen. Weak and needy.
So, interesting…Could it be that we aren’t clear because it feels like people should already know what we need? That they should see when we’re helpless so we don’t have to announce “IT’S ME OVER HERE NEEDING THE HELP.” That expectations are selfish? But then we haven’t said what kind of help we actually need, in other words been clear about our expectations, and then things go haywire? What if we allowed expectation to be a neutral word?
This is a work in progress. I’ve been thinking about discomfort for a few years now, and this seems like an important part of the work of discomfort: saying what you mean and what you want clearly. Saying “Can you help me?” and then to push even harder by clarifying what you actually want? That’s a big project.