During a phone call with a professional male friend regarding a project we were sharing, said, “By the way, in a small group I was in last night one of the ladies said, ‘Pete, you don’t connect’. That has bothered me no end. What did she mean by that? I speak to many small and large groups and I think I connect very well. Maybe she assumed that’s why I wasn’t married.”
Pete has many close male and female friends. I reminded him of the truism ‘What a person says or does reveals more about them than you.” He was grateful for that reminder. Perhaps she wants more special attention for herself, I teased. I asked him to hang tight until I could do some research and come up with satisfying options.
So, once again, I was put on an informal poll-path to see what others might surmise from that statement. What could ‘you don’t connect’ mean’? I queried an assortment of friends who proposed it could mean:
You are very distant
You are not honest
I think you are cold
You care nothing about me
You don’t make sense
You seem to be in another world
I was amazed at the variety of meanings. I emailed my good blog-buddy friend, Wendy, whose opinion I value. She wrote:
1. Not connecting could mean not listening, not responding, or not caring.
2. Not connecting could also mean there is nothing in common, no shared interest, no spark.
3. It could also mean there is no understanding, The other person is not comprehending what you are saying. Although someone may know the other person is comprehending but just disappointed that they don't agree with them.
4. So, the connection may be just fine but is merely used as a cop-out.
5. “We disagree” would be more truthful.
Until someone speaks with the lady, no one will know exactly what she meant. But in the meantime, what can we learn to help us down the communication corridor if that statement or another similar one is nonchalantly thrown across our path?
Resorting to “You” statements would put her in the defensive mode, such as:
“You don’t know me as well as you think.”
“You have no right to analyze me in front of this group.”
“Where did you receive your degree in counseling?”
“If you are trying to encourage me, you failed.”
“You don’t connect very well yourself in my opinion.”
None of these has any merit.
Employing ”I” statements is the best way to approach the subject. To the lady:
“I found your statement puzzling and wonder what you meant by that.”
“I’m interested in your observation that I don’t connect and learning your explanation.”
“Is 'not connecting' a disease or sign of a mental hang-up?” (doesn’t hurt to be totally facetious).
“Not connecting? Horrible. I want to know what you mean by that immediately.”
So, we can have fun with people’s off-the-cuff analyses and taking it lightly mixed with humor will protect the friendship from being marred as well as assuring any listeners that you have not fallen to pieces.
To Pete, this advice. The next time you see her in private, acknowledge that you are still pondering her statement that you don’t connect, appreciate her concern and that you would appreciate a definitive interpretation. That you always want to improve your relationship with others. That her sensitivity toward you means a lot. Always use “I” statements. Be courteous and kind to everyone. We all say stupid things at times. Just a caution to take time to think over your opinions before you cause an uproar.