No matter the context – relationships, personal development programs, or businesses – we all feel there are certain things that are supposed to happen in certain situations. And we’re disappointed when they don’t.
But no one knows what’s going on with another, especially when there is no communication.
Some of us are busy feeling underappreciated. Some of us are waiting for the breakthrough we’re supposed to be having, getting frustrated that it’s not showing up. Some of us are feeling like we’re missing the training we require to be effective in the role we were given.
Western culture owes a great deal to assumption. We assume people know. We assume people are competent. We assume people have the same capacity or ability or skills we have.
“They’ll do fine,” we say.
And we’re surprised to find our significant others, peers, collaborators, or partners consistently missing the target when we haven’t even generated the dartboard.
“XYZ should be setting aside time to individually call everyone on the team.”
“ABC should know why I’m offended and why they should apologize to me profusely if they ever hope to be spoken to again.”
And often people don’t know. Aren’t skilled. Aren’t thinking about others. Can’t see past their own frenzied world of to-dos, assignments, calls, meetings, relationships, and circumstances.
This is not about finger pointing. It’s about recognizing that communication isn’t happening where it’s supposed to be happening.
Those who are disempowered or are wondering why things are being done a certain way when they could be done another way need to speak up.
Those who are assuming knowledge, or knowhow, or specific actions need to speak up, ask whether everyone knows what they’re doing, and if not, provide opportunities for training.
No matter what it is, you need to speak up.
Never hold onto expectations. Either share them or surrender them entirely. Otherwise, you’re premeditating resentment. You’re thinking about all the ways you’ll be mad when someone doesn’t pass a test, they were never given the study material for.
In their sugar, caffeine, or alcohol induced high, your friends may come to you and say:
You should do X, then Y, and then Z!
At one point, you may have expressed your enthusiasm for X.
In the meantime, your plan may have changed from X to A, but there’s no way your friends could know all the minute details that got you to A. So, they still assume X is your plan when you’ve already moved onto A.
Or, because of the urgency of the situation, you’ve dedicated most of your energy to A, and X has been put on the backburner, becoming a mere figment of your thinking from two or three months ago.
There could also be B, C, and D considerations that need to be addressed before you can safely and confidently move forward with X.
All your friends are seeing is the destination, not the journey to getting there. They aren’t seeing the people, circumstances, and events that can act as constraints, real or imagined.
You don’t want to dedicate all your time and energy to “worst case” thinking, but it has its place. If you’re going to dedicate time to “best case” thinking, then it needs to be balanced out with “worst case” thinking too.
Your friends can’t see the whole picture. It’s not worth fighting over, and it may not even be worth your time to explain how you got to A, or to comb through considerations B, C, and D with them either. It may come across as little more than an excuse. X has become so obvious to them now; they can’t see any other way for you!
If you want to move the conversation forward, say “I would love to speculate on how we can make X possible. It’s been on the backburner because of A.”
Or, say “X was the best I could see at the time. But now I’m exploring D, which encompasses everything I talked about with X and more!”
You should only have two or three conversations that are top of mind. Ever.
If you’re looking for a romantic partner, everyone within earshot should hear you talking about how you’re looking for a romantic partner.
If you want to grow your business, you should be sharing what it is you’re looking to create with everyone you encounter.
If you’re looking for a new home, you should bring it up every opportunity you can.
I’m not talking about taking over conversations or rudely interrupting people. I’m talking about being intentional with what you talk about. Words have creative power.
You may assume everyone else is aware of what’s painfully obvious to you. But you’d be surprised to find how many people simply don’t have a clue, and even assume you’re probably happy with how things are in your life in right now.
It’s counterintuitive, given that the inconvenience of being human is that you’re always going to want more.
Either way, imagine the difference having these conversations would make. Don’t talk about what you think you deserve or what you think you can or can’t have. Only talk about what it is you’re creating.
Talk about what you want everywhere you go. That’s how you create it.
All things being equal, doing the occasional check-in with friends is better than not doing it at all.
That said, there’s nothing terribly inspiring about a text that reads “how’s it going?”
(Now there’s a real conversation starter! 🙄)
At first brush, it may seem like a nice, cordial way to begin a conversation. If you’re greeting a friend at the movie theater, it’s completely appropriate and even expected. But in a text, it’s a limp opening.
Don’t get me wrong – if there’s a quick follow-up text that clarifies the intent of the communication, “how’s it going” is fine. But don’t be surprised if I don’t immediately bust out of my best Sherlock Holmes costume to uncover the grand mystery as to why you’re reaching out to me.
I doubt it’s just me, but there are several thoughts flashing through my mind whenever I get this text (usually from the same two people):
- Okay, so what do they want from me? Why aren’t they getting to the point?
- If they understand that I’m up to something in my life (I refuse to use the word “busy,” because I’m the one creating my life), then why does it seem like they’re so eager to waste everyone’s time? Why aren’t they getting to the point?
- What are they getting out of this conversation? What am I getting out of this conversation? How is anyone benefiting from this conversation? Why aren’t they getting to the point?
- Have they learned anything about creating win-win propositions from the last time I’ve talked to them? Or can I expect them to be completely self-interested like the last time I’ve talked to them? Why aren’t they getting to the point?
I know, it sounds kind of mean, but these thoughts occur rapidly, spontaneously, and concurrently. With all the ways people have pitched me through the years, I can’t help it. In the construct of time, there are only positive and negative forces. There are no neutral ones! I have done a relatively thorough job of discouraging casual communication unless it’s from a familiar and welcome source.
Again, I think it’s better to do the occasional check-in than not. But it helps to enter a conversation with an intention. Stop and think about what the intention is. It can help move the conversation in a productive direction. If there is no intention behind it, you’re either socializing or wasting time.
What they really mean is they’re not keeping tabs on what you’re up to online, and it’s likely because they’re leading busy lives themselves, where checking up on you is not at the top of their priority list.
These comments only come from friends or family, so of course they’re not completely out of the loop. They know the kind of person you are as well as the kind of work you engage in. They’re probably not completely up to date with your projects, but they have some idea of what you’re up to from the time they talked with you three years ago.
But blogs, podcasts, videos, social media posts, etc. are not how they communicate. Likely, they are very “analog.” They use the internet, and they’re probably experts at sending texts, but they like to have most of their conversations on the phone or in person. Otherwise, they can’t be bothered.
This isn’t a problem to be solved, per se, but if you want to keep in touch with these friends, you must approach the issue from another angle. More web-based updates are not going to help them get “in the loop.” It’s an exercise in futility, and it can be frustrating for us internet natives.
This is where physical items, like cards, newsletters, or books come in. Besides the “cliché” but nevertheless welcome art of sending birthday and Christmas cards, print newsletters can be a great way to keep your friends in the know – especially if you have many updates to share.
And, if like me, you’re frequently publishing new books, you can find favor with your friends by sending them your new creations.
Whoever said you could “do it all online” got it completely wrong. Some of your best friends and closest family members have no clue what’s going on in your life unless you’re making the effort to let them know. The same goes for some of your prospects and customers.
At the risk of sounding salesy, it’s lovingly strategic to spread your message the old-fashioned way. By sending physical goods to your friends and family, you’ll naturally:
- Generate more referrals and business
- Tap into word of mouth
- Encourage more sharing and participation
- Attract collaborators and investors
- Foster goodwill
- And more
Yes, there’s a cost to sending postal mail. But in the long run, it benefits you and those around you more than you might assume.
So, the next time someone says, “I’m Not on Facebook,” ask them for their mailing address and promptly send them your pamphlet, magazine article, new CD, or otherwise.