Back in High School, my friends and I teased one another as a way of showing affection. Come to think of it, we still do this. In this vein of showing affection, I took to calling my best friend a loser. I didn’t intend it like it sounds. He has never been a loser, but as you can imagine this stepped way over the line. The problem was that I didn’t realize it until he said, after a week no less, “You know Matt, when you call me that it really hurts.” Duh! Everyone could see this… except me. Of course once he pointed it out my eyes were opened, I was deeply embarrassed and asked his forgiveness. I have never called someone that since.
We may think of this incident as something unique, something from the bygone and less mature years of high school, but this happens to all of us all the time. Sometimes we avoid telling people that they are hurting us because we don’t want to face the conflict, or we think we can just take it, but many times the other person has no idea. “It’s so obvious they must know!” we tell ourselves, but most (all?) of the time, they don’t until someone steps up and tells them.
One of the men I worked with a long time ago liked to yell into the teleconference phone, almost as though we were truly 1000 miles away and he was trying to get us to hear him without the use of telephony. It was so bad that we had to turn down the phone when he talked and then turn it back up for everyone else. I mentioned to him once that he talked loudly and the next conference call, he changed. We had assumed this was obvious to him, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately, everyone was so shocked at the change that they teased him for being too quiet so he went back to yelling.
We all can offer encouragement to one another by providing feedback when people do something that rubs us the wrong way. We should not assume they intend to hurt us but rather assume they just don’t understand how it comes across. In this way, we can be mirrors to our friends which helps all of us improve. Moreover, we all “call people losers” unaware that we are insulting them and need to find friends brave enough to be a mirror for us.