Thursday, October 9, 2008

No Problem

We found a contractor to install new wood floors in our kitchen. We were thrilled to have found Tom. He seemed honest and very accommodating. Then, just before we were to begin, the project needed adjustments. Tom’s response was always, “No problem,” but we began to worry. We felt badly about the last minute changes. We worried that Tom was beginning to resent us.

Then, a final shift in the project parameters meant we had to postpone. We felt terrible and feared calling Tom. Again, his response was “No problem.” But the words didn’t seem to match the terse phone conversation. Was it our guilt or was Tom angry with us?

When the time came to renew the project, we needed slightly different services. That’s probably the reason we hired a different contractor. Still, we preferred Tom and wanted to give him our business. Would we have called him if we felt more comfortable with our last encounter? Perhaps.

It is possible that we misread Tom’s reactions. It’s difficult to determine a message on the phone. Without seeing all of Tom’s non-verbal cues, it was much harder to gauge his sincerity. But I wonder: what if Tom had said something like, “I understand your need to postpone, circumstances change, but it’s a bit frustrating for me since I put you in my schedule. If we work again in the future, you’ll need to guarantee that I’ll be working for you during the time I’ve blocked out for you.”

Frankly, I prefer that explanation instead of a cryptic, “no problem.” I now know where I stand. I feel safer.

One value in recognizing our emotions is being able to name them for others. When there is congruence between what I’m sensing and what someone is telling me, I feel assured and secure.

Our desire to hide our emotions from each other (and ourselves) harms our relationships. Building up our knowledge of our own emotions is a key focus of emotional intelligence. If we accept our own feelings, we can respectfully describe them to others. This leads to more transparency and much more trust in our dealings with other people.

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