A couple of weeks ago I said something which hurt a business friend who is also a client. It was in a professional context and my comment was unprofessional.
I felt uneasy about it straight away, but the meeting had moved on and anyway, I didn't quite know what to say or even if I needed to say anything.
It turned out I did.
The person to whom I had made that unfortunate comment did me the great kindness in letting me know how much I had hurt her and how badly she felt my comment reflected on my business. Her text, while polite and totally professional, was the verbal equivalent of a hard smack.
I say kindness in all sincerity.
Because of her courage in contacting me, I was able to apologise and she to accept my apology.
I'm sure each one of you can understand how I felt; how I wanted to beat myself up for hurting her and for letting myself down.
But my Lenten discipline was to stop beating myself up, and I've tried to continue with that; so, having indulged in a few lashes – because I couldn't help it – I forced myself to step out of that self-destructive spiral and to think what I could learn from the incident.
I had an epiphany.
I realised that, professionally, I had been trying to control my clients. My job is to give them more confidence – but I wanted them to follow my rules. I wanted them to follow my rules because then I would feel validated.
No – I didn't beat myself up again: I just decided that, from now on – I'm letting that go. If my clients feel confident enough to break the rules, then that's just fine – my job is done.
Going back to my friend who wrote me the text. What a hard thing it is, to say, "You hurt me. I think your remarks were out of order." When we say that, it makes us feel vulnerable, and nobody wants to appear weak. We'd rather stay quiet, move on and pretend nothing happened. If we do that, however, the relationship is not the same: there is an inevitable coolness and distance.
If, when hurt, you can find that courage to say something, you are doing a great kindness. The other person may not have realised or, if they did realise, may not know how to say sorry. If you can risk being vulnerable, then you allow the relationship to heal. Or – if your dignified statement is met with, "Then that's your business!" you can choose to walk away and let the relationship cool. You cannot be the friend of someone who does not care if they hurt you.
As for me, I bought my friend some flowers and wrote her a thank you note. Her courage in letting me know I had hurt her gave me freedom. I am grateful to her for that hard smack!
A Moodscope member.
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