Thursday, August 7, 2014

If Someone Changed Your Life, Tell Them... Then Again, Maybe Not

Drew Dudley tells a sweet story about how he changed a young woman's life but has no recollection of ever doing so. The point of his story is that we, all of us, have moments of leadership that go unrecognized because we sometimes think "leader" is an unattainable title.

At the end of his story, he asks his audience to think about someone in who has inexorably changed their life, and question whether that other person knows. Then he encourages everyone to make sure that leader knows.

The whole story is endearing, and the call to action quite simple. I love it and want to embrace it, until I think about moments when I did try to tell someone what they meant to me.

See, it doesn't always go well.

It reminds me a little bit of the advice to "be yourself." Not only is it easier said than done, but for some people, it's actually bad advice. We have social decorum for a reason, and some people, when just "being their true self" don't conform to these modes. For some people, it takes a lot of focus and effort to be an empathetic, generous, kind person who interacts with others appropriately.

A few years ago, I reconnected very briefly with an old friend. We weren't friends for very long, but it was during a time in my life when I had very few friends. This person's friendship meant a lot. We never had a romantic relationship, but I certainly did have feelings for this person and never said so. After we reconnected ever so briefly, in ever so few words, I asked for an email address where I could send a more thoughtful and nuanced letter. I wrote and explained how and why our friendship was meaningful, and that I had had mixed feelings at the time, but never acted on them, and sometimes question why I didn't.

The problem, you see, is that I thought I was expressing some gratitude, similar to the young woman in Dudley's story telling him how he changed her life.

The problem, you see, is that I am not tactful. My emotions are rather reserved until the moment I feel like pouring them out, and then they come gushing. They are full of unintended suggestions that I don't see at the time that I'm writing, but I do see many days later when I re-read what I wrote in a different mindset.

After I gushed to my friend, I heard nothing. Then I sent a very very short follow-up message via social media, where I knew it would be seen, and said simple, "Nuts. Too much?"

Still, no reply.

It's okay. I'm sure my old friend has already forgotten all about it. And it's not the first time I've done such a thing. So as much as I want to buy into Dudley's message, I would say to others, it may be a better than advice.

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