I posed the question "How bad really are the effects of second hand smoke?"
Within moments, I'm feeling attacked for even wondering, and she's saying things like "Well why does it even matter? You sometimes smoke anyways!" I realize any comment I make will lead to high-tension controversy, so I drop it.
This frustration has caused me to disengage from conversations, or keep quiet when I have a differing opinion. It's happening over everything (e.g. "what does half and half contain?" "Are you taking the bus today?", etc). When I don't engage in a conversation, (just adding "yeah; cool; oh really?") our communication is excellent, and she seems to really enjoy our time together.
How do I tell my friend that I feel attacked and uncomfortable? Are we incompatible friends or does one (or both) of us need to alter our communication practices?Signed,
P.S. If we were playing the advice column game, I would read this letter and think: "better than."
Dear Shut Down,
So good of you to write. I have a lot of theories about what could be going on:
- There is unresolved conversational history between you. Maybe in the past, she felt judged by something you did or said, and hears that repeatedly, no matter what's going on now. That's the way it goes with unresolved things. For instance, perhaps one day you said something that made her feel judged for driving her car every day, and now when you innocently ask if she's taking the bus, she hears, "what the hell is wrong with you, driving your car every day when you could be saving the world, taking the bus?"
- There's unresolved history between your friend and the world at large. She had a judgy little boyfriend, or a mean mama, or something that caused her first chakra to be thrown off. (Look at me, tossing around chakra stuff!). When anyone says anything, she hears judgement because she feels insecure.
- She isn't a very curious person, and your questions irritate her. Who cares what's in half and half? Who cares if there's a threshold for 2nd hand smoke?
As with all the inter-human problems, it takes two, and the remedy is always the same. (But you knew that!) Try to have a conversation about it in the most open, loving way you can summon. Start by owning your shit, as honestly and kindly as possible. For example, "I love hanging out with you, but sometimes I wonder if my communication style contributes to tension in our friendship. Is that something we can talk about?" rather than, "Jeez, you take everything the wrong way!"
At the very least, you'll learn a lot. Some people aren't up for communicating, and maybe those people aren't a good match to be your friend. (Says a woman who lives alone with thousands of bees, an imaginary pet rabbit, and 3 deer.) But you will learn. If someone can't meet openheartedness with openheartedness, oh well. You can decide whether "friendship light" is worth it for you.
PS: I don't think I would say "better than", by the way. I'd go equal to. Because this is the basic problem that every one of us has nearly every day in big and small ways: communication failure.
PPS: I don't think it's excellent communication if you just say "yeah" all the time. She's so missing out! But you knew that.