A few years ago, a friend of mine and his wife had a baby. I took a step back from worrying about what gift to get them, reflected on how often we joke around, and decided to give them a gag gift. I took a container, labeled it “SURVIVAL KIT” and filled it with things like aspirin, power drinks, ear plugs, caffeine pills, and a fake gift certificate for a subscription to a fake magazine titled, “How To Be a Successful Computer Geek with Only Three Hours of Sleep a Night.” And I sent it.
After weeks of not hearing from him, I figured he was pretty busy with the new baby and work, so I texted him and asked if he got my gift. He wrote back: “It wasn’t funny.”
Often, when we make these great decisions about things we want to do in our relationships, they turn out to be… not-so-great. And we’re disappointed, hurt, embarrassed, confused, and even angry that the other person didn’t respond the way we wanted them to. It reminds me of the old saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Ain’t that the truth!
When we don’t receive the response we thought we’d get, we might become critical of ourselves, thinking we’re “bad” at relationships or that we don’t have enough in common with the other person to continue the relationship at all or that the other person doesn’t “get us” and on and on.
But it’s a pretty common experience to make a decision and when we go to execute it, the end result doesn’t look like anything we had imagined. Actually, this happens all the time.
So, what do we do then? Start the process all over again. Go back to step one: Get that noise out of our head, self-reflect and then make a decision to change before re-engaging.
With my friend, I got all my self-criticism out of my head and reflected on how the gift was not ill-intentioned and how I was trying to be funny, but had miserably failed and that I could get them a different gift.
I decided to apologize and send him and his wife a gift I knew they wanted because they had mentioned it in a previous conversation.
What happened then? He wrote a really appreciative thank you note.