Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Always Make The Active Choice."

The other day, I was talking with a colleague of mine. We were discussing a tough decision one of our staff had made, and I said something like, "Maybe I should reach out to her. I mean, I don't want to bother her, but--"

And my colleague said, "Always make the active choice."

Now, I may be a helping professional, but I'm also very introverted and shy by nature. Sometimes, in my personal interactions, I let things lie rather than reaching out, because, when I think of reaching out, all these thoughts attack me at once: What if she doesn't want you to call her? What if she just wants to be left alone? What if you say the wrong thing? What if it doesn't matter anyway? Probably a lot of other people are offering their support, so yours doesn't really matter...

Yeah, I do that. I admit it. I make those excuses. And I was really struck by my colleague's words, and how right she was. She was basically saying, "Don't sit back. Don't let it ride. Reach out and let her know you're thinking about her." She was saying the "risk" of reaching out is completely overwhelmed by the potential benefits. And the risk of taking the passive road? That person would never have known she was on my mind. She might have assumed I didn't care. That she didn't mean that much to me. The opposite is true, but how could she have known that?

For some of you, reaching out might come naturally. You might do this as automatically as breathing. But for me, it takes thought and effort, and that's just the way I'm wired. That's no excuse, though. I should make the active choice more often.

I'm going to try to do that.

How about you? Do you always make the active choice? Do you step outside of yourself and any fears of awkwardness, and just let someone know you're thinking about them? Is this easy for you, or are you more like me, in that you need to work at it a little bit?

And, because I'm just so very excited: please go visit Mundie Moms on Sunday (May 27) to see the cover of SANCTUM! I'll also be answering a few questions about the story, and I hope you'll stop by and let me know what you think. It should be up by late morning CST.

23 comments:

  1. Sarah, your initial response would've been mine too ... I don't want to bother her. I don't want to be pushy. I'm an introvert by nature, and sometimes I think I make up excuses not to reach out, just for fear of being rebuffed.

    Unfortunately, I have had memorable occasions of being rebuffed. Such as when a colleague who lived 3 doors down from had a very sick mother, and I thought I'd take the risk of making her a meal. I brewed up chicken cacciatore and walked it over.

    Her response: Thanks but no thanks. I'm a vegetarian. She left me standing with the crockpot on the stoop.

    That kind of thing sets an introvert back a ways. But eventually I came to realize the fault was hers. The proper response was to take the meal. She could've secretly thrown it out, right? (That's what I would have done, if someone brought me a soybean cacciatore.)

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    1. Yes, I've had a few of those experiences, too, and some via email where I reached out ... and was met with silence. The problem with silence is that it creates a vacuum into which I pour all my anxiety, and so it ends up being a negative experience even if no harm was intended at all. I try to remember this and respond to people (and I'm far from perfect at it, though).

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    2. Maybe she did not want it to go to waste? I have dietary restrictions, and my first instinct would have been politely refuse to accept because if I did accept, a) you'd think that I could eat it, b) might bring more things I couldn't actually eat, beginning some horrific cycle of wasted, delicious food and effort, c) eventually, it would come out that I could not eat this delicious food and you had been deceived into giving it to me multiple times all because I had been unwilling to tell the truth the first time.

      On the other hand, if I refuse, then I would not be wasting the food you had so thoughtfully prepared for me during my time of need. Someone who could actually eat it would hopefully get it. So, um, I am sure that your colleague did appreciate your efforts, and she most likely did not mean to hurt your feelings. There are lot of thoughts and feelings at play. She could have been kinder about saying no, but she was probably preoccupied about her mother.

      (...That was a long, random comment.)

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  2. Mostly I've taken the "no one cares what I have to say" approach. I'll never know if I could have been of help. But the older I get, the more my mouth is speaking up. And I'm liking it.

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  3. I don't reach out to people as often as I should either.

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  4. I'm very much like you, Sarah. When one of my colleagues was dying of cancer, I couldn't go see him because I knew I would spend the whole time crying. He didn't need that. But I didn't even have the guts to email him like another colleague suggested. I didn't know what to say.

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  5. SUCH a great reminder, Sarah! You prompted me to reach out to someone just now who I was thinking about. I don't do this as often as I should, and sometimes it's your excuses, but I'd add the whole busyness factor. What if s/he needs more time then I have to give? (If you're from the south like me, you'd get accused of just pretending to care to look like you have good manners when you really don't--LOL!) :D Ahh... I miss that crazy world. ;p

    *running over to see SANCTUM*

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  6. Wow. That is fantastic advice. Truly. I'm with LTM; this is a fantastic reminder of how action can bring about positive change but just the intent does nothing. So true with our writing too. Saying that, it's not always easy to reach out to others. Mostly, we fear their reaction.

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  7. Excellent reminder. I should more often than I do.

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  8. I'm an introvert by nature too and I make the same excuses you do when I'm reading out to people. Plus, I generally like to be left alone when I'm going through a difficult period so I tend to convince myself that other people feel the same way.

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  9. So that's why you've become a pusher recently. *snorts*

    ~JD

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  10. Oh yes. Reaching out is always more difficult than sitting back. Great advice!

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  11. If and when I come out of my cozy cul-de-sac, I try to focus my efforts where they seem wanted, but I've been stuck holding the unwanted banana bread of solace more than once. Probably why I stay hidden in said cozy cul-de-sac.

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  12. This is SO ME! I'm naturally introverted too, and I'm always afraid I'm bothering people. So it's natural for me to not make the first move, and I'll admit, I've totally been burned by just this.

    I'm still excited to see your cover. Just a few more days!

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  13. I...am you! You...are me! We're trying!! :)

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  14. THIS-->"What if she doesn't want you to call her? What if she just wants to be left alone? What if you say the wrong thing? What if it doesn't matter anyway? Probably a lot of other people are offering their support, so yours doesn't really matter..."
    Exactly what I think! Even this past weekend at a conference, I asked for some notes from a friend because I didn't want to bother the speaker for an email, even though the speaker invited us to email her for those notes! I thought about it and emailed her to at least say 'Thank you!' for a great workshop.
    Sometimes I'm too in my head to realize that actively reaching out is a GOOD THING. Thank you for the reminder.

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  15. hi dr sarah! for me im just a way big reacher outer. i dont worry bout how someone could act and it doesnt bother me if they dont say thanks or dont say anything or dont want my chicken soup. my mom always said just follow your heart and thats what i do. sometimes just real little stuff could be a really big help for someone. when im down just a little email or ecard or a snail mail card makes me feel way better. im glad youre starting to get past being scared to be a reacher outer. for sure your gonna be touching lots of people lifes. you already been a toucher for me. :)
    ...hugs from lenny

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  16. It's so funny you wrote this, because you are one of the few people I've tentatively reached out to for a little advice (because I was frightened of the e-mail-ignore too) and you came back with a whoppingly helpful response. And there have been other things you've done--comments on my blog that I really appreciated. I know you're shy, you mention it often on your blog, but you've made me feel like I'm worth your while, which I really appreciate. Sometimes a little bit goes a loooong way (with a writer who is querying and going through the ups and downs of that, especially).
    Thanks, Sarah

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  17. I know that when people have reached out to me during the tough times in my life, I've appreciated it. Conversely, I've been hurt by those I've viewed as "ignoring me." Some friendships haven't survived the ignore. Now, when I can reach out, I try to remember that--and I will echo your colleague: "Always take the active route."

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    1. So hard! Of course, I know it shouldn't be so. I'll stand and consider and *know* that I'm supposed to encourage someone. But then doubts and questions fly through my mind, fears of rejection or of being annoying. But you--and you're co-worker--are so right! The active choice is always the right one! Otherwise we're just sitting back and letting our fears control our lives...and withholding good from others.

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  18. I tend to be very passive too, so this is really good advice for me. I usually know in my gut what to do, but my passivity takes over.

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  19. When I was reading your post, I thought about the times people reached out to me to say they cared. It meant a lot to me, so I do think it is worth the risk.

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