Columns, Opinion

Ladies I Am Right: Great expectations

Again, it felt like my classes were aligning with what I was supposed to be learning in real life. When this happens, it always feels like my life is slowly becoming more like a teen movie and less like the divorcee show it actually is.

We just finished the crisis communications unit for my media relations class. Crisis communication, my professor emphatically explained, deals with the perception of the crisis. A tree could fall in the woods, and if no one noticed, there would be no crisis. But if someone thought that tree was nefariously cut down, then there would be a crisis. This made me wonder about the nature of our perceptions about other people. It also made me wonder about how we perceive other people’s emotions and feelings.   

It all goes back to when I found out the guy I was seeing had a girlfriend. I tried to tell him how foolish and embarrassed I felt. How could I have not known? “You shouldn’t feel embarrassed,” was his reply. As if by just saying the words, the flushing in my face and the shaking of my hands would stop. As if the mere thought of experiencing a feeling I ‘shouldn’t have’ could have stopped me from feeling it. If emotions existed in a vacuum, maybe that would be the case.

But, thankfully I might add, we are allowed to feel a full range of emotions. We can take anger, sadness, regret, elatedness and frustration, and package them together in a day if we need to, just because we can. Being able to feel is one of the greatest aspects of the human experience.

We can’t dictate the way people feel, nor can we control how they react to what we say and do. It would be unfair to expect people to always be on par with our emotional intelligence expectations. It would also be unfair to the other person if we dictated how they should feel about things. It all boils down to the same concept: if someone tells you that you’ve made them feel a certain way, you cannot tell them they are wrong. You can’t tell them that how they feel shouldn’t be the way that they feel.

Something else that I’ve learned is no matter how hard we try, we generally cannot control how people perceive us. Of course we can hone our skills when it comes to posture, body language and word choice, but there is only so much we can do as far as someone else’s perception of us. We know this from the other side of it, mostly. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this before. Once we’ve decided that we don’t like someone, suddenly everything they do is an annoyance to us, from how they walk to how they smack their gum to how they sometimes elongate their words when they’re nervous.

Second to only “you shouldn’t feel embarrassed” is the phrase “I don’t want you to think I’m a bad person.” It isn’t regret toward how you treated someone, nor an apology for said treatment, but worry about that person’s perception.

Once again, as if just saying it will stop them from thinking you’re a bad person. You might not be a bad person, but if you’re worried about the other person’s perception of you rather than how they may actually feel, that’s not a good start. If you do something wrong and the other person is hurt by it, they’re allowed to think that you’re a bad person. Alternatively, someone can be mean to you without being a mean person. This happens more than we think. One of the people I used to see is a good person to everyone else, but when we were together in our drastic on-again, off-again fashion, we didn’t know how to be good to each other.

I overheard a conversation where a boy was discussing the displacement of his last relationship. He tried to explain to his friend that he ended his relationship because the girl he was with had caught feelings for him. “We agreed,” he said, “we would not get feelings for each other.” Easier said than done, as one can imagine.

They had built a relationship on an somewhat unrealistic expectation. You cannot predict either a lack or growth of emotion. Few of us can truly anticipate how we’re going to feel about something before that thing happens. He thought that because they agreed to not have feelings, it wouldn’t happen. But she changed her mind.

In a perfect world, we would be able to control our emotions and our perceptions. Perhaps then, when someone tells us we shouldn’t feel embarrassed, we won’t. But until then, we have to learn to anticipate and deal with each other’s emotions and perceptions a little better.  


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