Change Can Be Pleasant

I was at a wedding over the weekend and was looking forward to seeing some people I had not seen in a while. By the time I got to the ceremony there weren’t any spaces left close to friends so I sat next to a couple I didn’t know. Turned out the man was the groom’s line manager and we ended up talking about our sons’ obsessions with football, after school clubs, life and general things. It was really nice talking to them.

Still I was hoping that at the reception I would get to sit with some of my friends. As I entered the marquee, I suddenly realised there were no place settings. I looked round for familiar faces but couldn’t see any. I contemplated sitting at an empty table with the hope that friends would soon gather and we could regale ourselves with updates from when we were last together. However, it didn’t happen quite like I had hoped.

At the same time, a woman who I had served with at my previous church sat at the table I was thinking of sitting at. I thought well I know her and there were two spare seats next to me if any friends came by soon. So I sat down, particularly as the place was filling up rather quickly.

I got up to get a cocktail and I met two friends who asked if there were spaces at my table. I replied yes and pointed at the table and one of them commented, “you are sitting with people you don’t know?” And my puzzled response was “so?” They politely declined the proposition of sitting with strangers.

We all like the familiar. It’s comfortable and comforting. I don’t think of myself as a sociable person but perhaps having to make friends in a city with no friends or family has morphed me into a more sociable person.

I had an absolutely pleasant time talking to this lady for the best part of two hours or more. We talked about children, our childhood, what we were up to, the food (which was really nice), some future plans, my blog – we really talked. And it was none of that stilted conversation where you are thinking of what to say. It was just an absolutely lovely time. I really didn’t miss my friends at all. Truly amazing how you can know someone for so long and not really know them.

Change is good – particularly when it opens up opportunities like these.

Talk To Your Children

I have a friend who wasn’t close to her mum at all. In fact, one would have thought they weren’t related. Their relationship was fraught with fights and misunderstandings. I thought it very odd that she would come and talk to my mum when I wasn’t there. Then I realised, she was searching for this at home and there was a huge vacuum in her life as a result of not being close to her mum. Sadly this vacuum was never filled and they have both simple accepted their relationship for what it is. Fortunately she found other surrogate mums who were there for her, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same.

Conversely, I see my older sister’s relationship with my niece and I sometimes think, is there nothing these two do not talk about? There doesn’t seem to be any boundaries there. My niece can go to her mum and talk about absolutely anything. Makes me wonder what she’s withholding because all children pity their parents like that. Rotfl.

I think it’s great my niece can go to her mum and talk about whatever. Call me a realist, but I don’t think we can use ‘good parenting’ as an insurance policy. It doesn’t guarantee that your children will always make the right choices. But when they are grown and they have their own children, again they will pity their parents and be grateful you were there . They can look back on their childhood knowing that there wasn’t a vacuum. And they will try and do the same for their children.

Banish That Email

Never send complex information by email. Anything that can be misconstrued or may cause offence is best said face to face. Emails don’t have emotions or body language. They are subject to the interpretation of the reader. If their perception is that you are antagonising them or you are out of order, it takes the conversation to a whole different place. At the end of the day, the time you were trying to save by sending a quick email is totally obliterated by the ping-pong emails that ensue and your need to defend your corner.

The downside of technological advancement is that people stop making time for conversation. In reality, conversations are quicker. You can correct any wrong impressions or misconceptions there and then; you can agree a way forward and THEN you send an email confirming what was agreed.

I’m all for robust discussions when necessary but working relationships become a lot more pleasant when there is dialogue not ‘e-darts’.

For Integrity’s Sake, Keep Your Mouth Shut

Last weekend, I saw a lady selling the Big Issue magazine. For non-UK residents, the Big Issue is a magazine sold by homeless people which gives them the opportunity to earn an income. I stopped to buy a copy but soon realised that I had no change. I told her that I was going to the shops and would return with change. On my return, she smiled and I asked if she had change for a fiver and she said yes. She thanked me for coming back and then proceeded to tell me that people always say they’ll come back but they never do. 😦

The funny thing is I almost forgot to go back. I got into the shopping centre and got distracted and even though I got the change, I almost walked past her because my head was just elsewhere. I just happened to remember by chance and I recall berating myself for being so absent minded but I could have been one of those people who said they’d be back.

How easy it is for me to simply say yes to something and not give it a thought. The reality, in the deep recesses of my mind, is that I have not really given a thought to what I’ve just said. At best, sometimes, I may intend to do it but not with the same sort of urgency that is being perceived by the person I’m communicating with. So why don’t I simple say to people, ‘I will do it in my own time’. How many times have you promised to keep in touch with someone or said you’d call or we should get together for dinner or let’s organise a play date? How many times have you had the genuine intention to but simply didn’t follow up?

It’s almost as if we all know we are saying it and we all know nothing will come out of it, but we say it anyway. There appears to be some unwritten social code that says we have to fill silent moments or end conversations with a promise to do something. Like see you later or I’ll give you a call soon (never mind that the last time you saw the person was two years ago). Truth be told, it is not necessary. Integrity isn’t only applicable to a business or professional context; it should be applied to our daily lives. What we say to our friends, colleagues, children, spouses or even strangers, counts a great deal and also reflects negatively or positively on you. The moment you say it, someone is placing some reliance on that. Once we show ourselves as lacking in integrity, we lose the trust of others.

If you can’t say what you mean how will people know you mean what you say? It’s worth thinking about.