“Hello, it’s me.”
Some are saying there’s a scientific reason that we all love Adele. (No surprise: it’s tied to empathy.) That is probably why this Thanksgiving SNL skit parodying our mutual adoration for her new song was such a hit. I personally have been singing the opening line from that song, on repeat to myself, a lot lately. It started happening whenever I felt like I was unheard, which seems to occur frequently this time of year. You know that feeling? You’re communicating to someone, but they’re not hearing you. Not ignoring you, just not hearing.
It goes something like this:
“Hello, can you talk?”
“I’m in the middle of something–really busy today.”
“Oh OK, it’s a busy time. We will catch up later then.”
But you don’t talk later. Maybe you get a missed call, a follow-up text, or radio silence … until the next time you reach out.
See, if you could have talked I would have told you about my long, intense, and exasperating day. I might have told you about how one of my colleagues is struggling through a death in her family that exposed broken relationships. I’d have mentioned how this reminded me of my own struggles through my father’s death, or how heartbroken I felt for my friend. But you’re busy. You don’t have time to hear me. And that’s really too bad. I know you have other things to do, important I am sure. It’s too bad our choices are often either-or. Isn’t that too bad?
Here’s what that message—the one where you tell me you’re too busy to talk—says to me: It says that I’m not important or significant. It says that somebody is not tuned in enough to say I am more important to them than other things. Most of us want to be important at all times, but we really want to be important at very special times and in relationships where our friends can recognize those moments. And maybe the truth is that in the hectic hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we don’t focus long enough to realize those moments.
In relationships, we presume that we will be noticed at a deeper level, and share special moments. Somehow, through life and work distractions, we wind up with the mere niceties of a relationship, not the heart and soul of one. What can we do about that? Abandon the relationship altogether? Or demand more from it? There is another option.
Here’s an example of a different way that initial phone call could have played out.
“Hi, can you talk?”
“I’m in the middle of something—really busy today.”
“Wow, tell me about that. How does it make you feel to be so busy?”
“Honestly it makes me feel like I’m losing control.”
“Let’s talk later tonight about that and let me know how it all plays out today. I’d also like to bounce some things off of you, too.”
“Sure, that’s great. I’ll be free at 8. Call me then, and I’ll make sure to be available.”
You have the power disrupt the cycle. It starts by letting people know that you want to be heard and want to hear them. It’s a simple fix, but it’s also a bold move. It requires exposing your need to be heard and recognizing those moments when your friends need to be heard, too.
I’ve moved on from repeating the first line of Adele’s song. Now I’m halfway through the song.
I’m singing: “Hello from the outside, at least I can say that I’ve tried.”
Are you on the outside for someone who wishes you are on the inside? Is it the other way around? Or is it both?