It is absolutely our responsibility to moderate our requests and conversations so that they are respectful and mindful of others. But no matter how respectful or mindful, we can’t manage how our requests are taken.
For example, I might say to you in a pleasant voice, “Will you do me a favor, please? Before you do this thing that is related to me, and something I need/like to do, would you please compare notes with me? That way, I get to do at least a part of this thing which I truly enjoy doing.”
You might say back to me, “That is a sensible and fair request. Done.” Or, you might get your panties in a wad and act like I just told you I was canceling Christmas. If it is the former, we can both be happy and maybe go do that fun thing together. If it is the latter, well, that just stinks for both of us.
I’m a chronic overreactor, I think. Frequently, my first thought when faced with a statement I find even remotely off center is, “How dare she/he!” I’ve made more than one mess that way, realizing in retrospect someone said, “Look an ant,” not, “Why did you bring ants to this picnic, you horrible person!” So, I would tell you that while we have that responsibility to manage our actions toward others, we also have a responsibility to manage our reactions. It takes two people to have a boxing match.
It’s taken me years to admit that I am a hothead, but I got a genetic double dose of it, so it’s to be expected. What I’m learning is to manage my own expectations of reciprocal behavior. I’m learning that I can only do so much to affect reciprocal behavior. You can’t lengthen someone’s fuse, and you can’t change which buttons cause explosions.
Dealing with some people is like trying to defuse a bomb. Do you go for the red wire or the blue wire? If you clip the wrong one, you’re toast. If you clip the right one, you’ve still got sweat dripping off your nose, and your noticeable stress sets off that backup device–it’s a much smaller explosive, but it’s going to cause some damage anyway.
I fully admit that I am this person when it comes to housekeeping–do not ever, no matter how kindly you say something, expect me not to have some sort negative reaction to any statement regarding my lack of that skillset. That’s why I hired Molly Maids, you judgmental–see? I can’t even imagine the conversation without feeling my jaw tighten. You say, “What kind of duster do you use?” and I hear, “Good lord, Lane! Has this place been dusted since the Eisenhower administration? You suck and don’t deserve nice things. You are a horrible person.” I react accordingly. You will find yourself metaphorically legless and on the side of the road faster than you can say, “I like Swiffer, myself.”
Maybe my New Year’s Resolution should be to dig up all my buried IEDs so people aren’t having to worry about finding and disarming them before talking to me. Take things at face value, and not personally. Then, maybe things will be nicer all the way around? Or at least I’ll be nicer to be around.