People can usually be placed into two categories when it comes to communication: those who are open and honest and those who avoid any possibility of conflict.
I am the first. I learned a long time ago that a person may not like or even respect me, but at least they will never question my motives or feelings if I am upfront with them.
C is the latter. She is the queen of avoidance and vague communication.
My firm was asked to consult on the design of a roadway in New Mexico. I flew out, drove to this isolated location and with horror noticed a sign that told me I was only 2 miles from the town she lives in. I avoided her, initially. I didn’t tell her I was consulting on that roadway or that I was even in town. I had given up on her. As a friend and even as someone who could add any value to my life.
Well, she is a cop in this town of about 300 people and it takes a mere 5 minutes to drive from one end to the other. There are only two gas stations and they happen to be directly across from each other on the same street.
The roadway is isolated and the one end is about 50 miles from any town and the other end connects to her tiny village. Even though I stayed in a different town, I had no choice but to get fuel at one of the stations if I was going to make it back to where I was staying.
As I’ve learned, God has a pretty twisted sense of humor. As I was filling up, a cop pulled over a speeding motorist right in front of me. That cop was C. My covert operation was busted. I finished getting my fuel, got back in the car and left. About twenty minutes later I get a text asking if I would meet her at that same gas station.
I reluctantly agreed and met her in what had to be one of the most awkward exchanges ever.
We tried to muddle through talk of work, kids, friends. Nothing to even remotely resemble the true issues between us. After about thirty minutes we parted ways. I went back to my hotel and she did whatever it is that she does.
A few days later I got a text from her. “I’m getting sick and tired of people telling me that I am loaded with character flaws. I feel like I’m being judged for something I didn’t even know was an issue!”
I had no clue what she was talking about so I responded with, “I’m not sure how I should respond to that.”
Apparently one of our mutual friends, S, had told C how she felt that her attitude in recent months had made her someone unpleasant to be around. In their discussion she mentioned how C had willingly allowed my friendship with her to deteriorate and was refusing to see the part she played in it.
That then prompted the text from C which was followed by the question, “am I causing you any unnecessary stress that I’m not aware of?”
I thought about it for a minute. I found it interesting that she used the word “stress” because I hadn’t really thought of it that way. But, the more I analyzed it, the more I realized that it was stress. The feeling of anxiety as I agreed to meet her; the tension I felt when I saw her stop the motorist and that feeling of “please don’t see me, please don’t see me”. That was stress.
I called Julie and explained the text and she said that if I ever truly was friends with C that I owed it to both of us to be honest with her. If for no other reason than so that I could feel as if I had finally had a chance to get off my chest all that I have been holding in, in an attempt to put this all behind me. So, that’s exactly what I did:
“C, I have shared certain things with S, or other friends because that’s what you do…you talk to friends. I chose to discuss my concerns with people who don’t know you or those who don’t know you well, because I didn’t want anyone to think badly of either of us.
The reality is if I could talk to you without you jumping to the conclusion that I’m judging you, as a person, I would. But you haven’t been open and receptive to that in a long time.
I hope that as your friend, you know I would never do or say anything to judge or intentionally hurt you.
However, you haven’t been a very good friend in a long time. You have been selfish and distant and I have not done anything to deserve that, regardless of what you have told yourself.
I have gone out of my way to make myself available to you as a friend. No, you never asked me to do that, but that’s what friends do.
This friendship has been one sided for months and I try very hard to be understanding of all that you have been through in the past year. I am a human being. It hurts my feelings when I’m dismissed or treated as if I am a stranger. Or worse, when I’m accused of doing things to meddle in your life that I haven’t done.
I have known you for almost a decade and I have never known you to run away from me the way that you do now.
I realize that people change. But the person they are inside never does so I have been holding out waiting for the C that I’ve known for several years to show back up but I fear that person died the day M did.
As for S? In all fairness, that’s not my fault. If I can’t talk to you about issues between us that bother me I have no choice but to talk to others. I shouldn’t have to bottle up what bothers me because it makes you uncomfortable. I’ve never told you this because it’s not your fault, but I have had some pretty cruel shit said to me by your friends too. I took it for what it was…people who care about you being a little too protective.
I can’t be held responsible for what other people do or say just like you can’t. If you feel like I was gossiping about you, that’s not what it was at all. You know me well enough to know that’s not who I am.
Bottom line is this…I would love to be able to pick up the phone and not worry that you will jump my shit for trying to communicate with you because it interferes with your day. I would love to be able to text you and say “I had a shitty day” and know that you actually give a damn and I could vent a little. I’d love for you to do those things with me again. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case for a long time because you have become this self absorbed, cruel shit and I don’t like you very much.”
Pretty blunt. But, I was prepared for her to do what has been the norm for her recently; blow up at me and tell me to never contact her again. In fact, there was a part of me that was hoping that’s exactly what she would do.
After I sent the text I called Julie back. Told her what I’d said and listened as she cheered me for finally being completely open and honest with her, regardless of the consequences. Halfway through our conversation, C called. Julie told me to take the call and to call her back afterwards.
I did just that and I was surprised to hear what I did.
“I’ve been a shitty friend. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that.”
We talked for an hour. I openly told her every detail of how she had been hurtful and rude. I pointed out all the people and times that there had been a supportive friend near by that wanted to help her and she was dismissive. I explained that I had gotten to the point that I actually cringed when I saw her and didn’t want to be anywhere near her. I was about as direct as a person can be.
She apologized, repeatedly. She acknowledged the pain she had caused me and others and at the end of our conversation she said “I promise to work on fixing this”
I got off the phone feeling better. The next morning she sent a text wishing me luck on my presentation and later that evening posted to my Facebook.
Then nothing. Days went by and I didn’t hear a word. As I was boarding the plane Friday to come home, she called. Asked about how my meetings went and told me about her days. It was still a little awkward and tense, but it was a start.
I had to cut our conversation short to board but sent her a text asking about something she mentioned in our conversation. That was Friday and she still hasn’t responded.
There’s a part of me that is hopeful. Hopeful that I can regain the friendship that I’ve enjoyed for almost a decade. However, all that has transpired has me feeling cautious and realistic.
A friend told me to stop expecting the worst from her but past performance is the only true indicator of the future.
I will be back in New Mexico in a few weeks. I guess I’ll see what happens between now and then to decide if I’ll even put forth any effort to see her.