Alas! We have made the decision to make a personal change, and start telling others about it; our friends, family, colleagues. They then take what we have told them and try to relate to it.
If they have some knowledge of the change, whether personally, vicariously or through word-of-mouth, they use this knowledge to help themselves more closely connect to what we might experience.
In some ways, these attempts to relate to our change are good. They can help us gain buy-in where needed, they offer opportunity to gain insight and guidance when needed or wanted from those well-versed on this type of change, and they can create a greater sense of support by knowing there are people in our lives who can empathize with us.
But there can also be downsides. Here are just a few characteristics we could encounter:
The self-appointed advisors.
Those who feel they are experts on our change and are therefore responsible for advising us whether we want it or not, “you’ll definitely need to have a prenuptial agreement drawn up before you propose. I didn’t have one and am paying the price for it now!”
People who have some prior knowledge of our chosen change event and erroneously assume that our transition will be the same as theirs or others they have heard about, when in fact, each transition is unique, “brace yourself, you’re in for a rocky ride if you think you can just up and leave your company and make it on your own. It took me years before I could make ends meet!”
Those who believe they have a clear understanding of our change, when, in reality, they don’t, “you’re dating again? That’s great! I know a wonderful person I can set you up with!" (In response to your mentioning you're no longer in a committed relationship).
Missing the mark.
Friends and family want the best for us, and are often eager to help us succeed with our change. But their help will fall short when based on inaccurate assumptions about the change.
In these situations, what the person might think is helpful to us can instead create frustration and annoyance, especially when their help hinders instead of helps, or was never requested in the first place.
What can we do when people we care about and mean well are causing more problems than assistance?
Find the disconnect.
Sometimes an offer of advice or assistance doesn’t feel right to us but we’re not exactly sure why. We feel uneasy, queasy, grouchy or as though something is off-kilter.
Could it be that the person is transferring their own experience onto our change, or that they are offering unsolicited advice? Maybe it's because we realize that they don’t really understand what it is we are attempting to change.
Finding the disconnect helps us to more clearly understand our reactions; the next step in the process.
Identify the problem.
What is it about the unsolicited advice or other disconnects that make us feel uncomfortable?
Is it that we want to forge our own path without the influence of others who have experienced it before us or that we want to remain positive as a means of building momentum for the change, and cautions or warnings dampen that momentum?
Perhaps it's that attempts to help when the purpose or path of our change isn’t fully understood is creating extra work or effort for us.
Figuring out the cause of our discomfort helps us to identify what we would prefer instead.
Determine and communicate our needs.
Now that we’ve identified the issue and why it matters to us, we can figure out what we want instead.
If unsolicited advice makes us feel like the person offering it is telling us what to do, and being told what to do makes us want to rebel, then we know we need to avoid or try to prevent unsolicited advice.
If our change is easily misunderstood because of its uniqueness or complexity, then finding ways to talk about the change so it can be more easily understood, or limit the how much or with whom we share with might be helpful.
If there are people who consistently drag down our optimistic perspective of our change, then maybe it would be best to distance ourselves from those people until we have moved past the point where it matters, or where we are more receptive to hearing alternative perspectives.
Once we know what we need, it is much easier to communicate those needs to others.
A valuable way of identifying and communicating our needs is by setting personal boundaries. Tips on how to do this will highlighted tomorrow as we wrap up this week’s theme on interference, so stay tuned.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
**Please note RSS Feed not compatible with Chrome without an extension.