Last week I met a friend for coffee and she told me that she was feeling quite distressed because of a kind of non-fight she was having with a friend. This was a friend she spoke to multiple times a day and was the first person she told everything to. For some reason, this friend hadn’t reached out or replied to any of her messages for the past 24 hours, which naturally put the fear of god into her.
She was telling me how unhappy she was feeling and how it was difficult for her to focus on anything else. I know lots of people (usually women) who feel like this when they sense animosity from someone they love and any time it happens, it feels like the end of your sanity. Many times the injured party has a feeling of why the other person is behaving differently, but a lot of times, we leave it to our own imagination to explain the situation. Common ideas include:
- I bet she’s found a new friend and has forgotten about me
- Someone told her something I said about her out of context
- I’m too boring, he’s gotten tired of me
- She doesn’t like me anymore
- I said something I shouldn’t have said
- He’s angry at me about something
This barrage of negativity often plagues you till you finally resolve the issue. I’ve gone through these same feelings many times and I’m sure you know how difficult it is to focus on anything else when you’re feeling like you’ve been a bad friend or done something terrible to someone.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it’s completely one sided. Of course, there are time when you know exactly what you did to put someone off, but at other times, we let our assumptions get the best of us. We convince ourselves of what the issue must be and then obsess over this for hours or even days. What we don’t think about, is the other person’s state of mind. When I was going through a situation like this, I spoke to a friend of mine who told me that one way to positively deal with every relationship is to believe one thing, that they are doing their best. What does this mean?
This means believing that each of us is genuinely trying our best. To be the best friend, the best person, the best partner and the best human that we possibly can. I agree that this is very idealistic, but ignore what it means for the other person, think of what this means for you. It means that when someone is late, they weren’t being inconsiderate but really did get stuck in traffic. I means that when your partner snaps at you, it’s because they’re stressed and are having a tough day. It means that when your friend doesn’t call you for two days, it’s because they are genuinely going through something that requires 100% of their attention, because at the end of the day, we have to believe that they are doing their best and remember that each person’s abilities are also unique.
There are lots and lots of people who do not do their best on a daily basis, myself included. However, believing the best about someone will soften your own mood and give yourself a little bit more compassion than you might have otherwise. It allows for patience, time, respect and understanding to take that moment and reflect on what someone else is going through, rather than making every situation centre around ourselves. By keeping this in mind, the friend I told you about at the beginning, said she felt so relieved. That she was now feeling calm and kind enough to be the bigger person and to call her friend, and find out what was going on, rather than sit and fixate on something imagined.
So now, when I find myself annoyed with someone for not putting enough effort into our relationship, for not being there for me at certain times or when I see someone act in a way that is inconsiderate; I try to rationalise why they would do this. Underneath it all, people are good, or at least that’s what I hope. People want to do their best, and though their best might not be good enough for you, it’s all they can do. Take the focus off your own expectations of what someone’s best is, and accept that they are doing their best. They may not have the ability to be the person you want them to be, but they are trying their best. So try your best as well, and flip the focus from the problem to why it’s happening and I think you may find that you are suddenly not so upset.