I said goodbye to a friend today. He’s been such an important part of my life for so long, and I messed up. I hurt him, I let my emotions rule me, I didn’t think before acting, I didn’t realize I was pushing him away until it was too late. And now he’s gone, forever. Why am I like this? Why can’t I just think for one star struck second before I jump down peoples throats, before I put up my walls, before I say something I regret? All I ever seem to do is cause grief. Is it too late to become better? am I too late to be good?
Nope, definitely not too late. I was always the tactless one, was always messing up like that.
These days I do it so much less that friends tell me they don’t see me as tactless. I am in my late forties. I am not sure when or how it changed but I was definitely still doing this in my twenties. If I can work out how it changed I’ll try to remember to come back and tell you.
First impressions might count … My therapist thought I was not the kind of person who turns up late, as for the first few months I put our sessions on the time stress level of catching a flight. How wrong she was…!
I don’t think it’s too late. We’re always learning, always growing and you can work on this
I think I’ve remembered something that may have helped…
At a certain point I made a conscious decision to say truthful and kind things to people. For a long time this was some kind of random compliment thing to friends and colleagues. It generally got very positive responses, people seemed to like it (not really surprising, most of us like to hear nice things about ourselves). This gave me a bit of leeway, in that when I messed up by blurting out the wrong things at other times, it was easier for my apology to be accepted because more people knew by now what I had always known: that my heart is in the right place and I don’t mean to upset people.
Eventually I got so good at this that I was often able to stop myself blurting out the wrong things after all. I have never been much good at keeping my mouth shut, so rather than try, I try to adjust/divert my reaction. I’ll try to think of an example…
Suppose someone does something really infuriating and I have to react… I try to say something which I know is 100% true. I can’t know what’s in their heads but I can know what I am thinking and feeling, so I try to describe that. On a really good day I’ll even turn it into a question, said in a ‘genuine question’ tone of voice rather than a rhetorical question. Like… ‘Can I ask you something?.. Were you doing that to get a particular reaction from me?’ At this point the other person will hopefully be honest too and either admit that they were trying to annoy you (so than you can ask why, if you don’t know) or be surprised at the question, in which case you can say you’re glad you asked, because…
So the end result is a more honest communication and both parties get more chance to correct misunderstandings.
But I will be totally honest here and say that that last bit is relatively knew and was taught to me by someone twenty years older than me with more life experience and skills in this department.
So don’t give up hope, and at the same time don’t expect yourself to be able to change the habits of a lifetime overnight. Try to change something small, and be kind to yourself when you forget. The making positive comments at random calm moments is a really nice way to start because you’re more in control of what you say when you’re initiating the exchange rather than responding. So you can take your time and select your words better than at other times.
I hope this helps a little. Good luck!