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March 9, 2007 / missknowitall

Is It Me? What Did I Do?

Dear Little Miss,
How can you tell when you’re bothering someone?  It’s a funny situation because you’re not sure if it’s events going on in someone else’s life or if it’s just you that is making a person on edge.  I would normally think that it’s just the events but it seems to be going on and on.  I think that asking this person about it would make the situation worse.  I’m continuing to be pleasant and pretending I don’t notice the edginess towards me. What should I do?

Dear “Is it me?”,

I have this problem all the time.  I’m constantly wondering, “Did I say something?”, or “Are they mad at me?”, or “What did I do?”.  There really is no way to tell.  They may act the same wether they are deeply offended at a comment you made last week or if one of their co-workers belittled them at last week’s meeting.  While I wish I could offer you a more creative, or a less confrontational way to handle this, I have yet to be taught such a wonderful solution, myself.  What works for me is to give the person an appropriate amount of time to stew, or whatever it is they are doing (for me, I can only stand to let it go for three days).  Then I meekly approach them and say, “I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but I have noticed you seem upset and distant lately.  I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what I might have done to upset you and I can’t seem to figure it out.  I just need to be blunt and ask if I have in any way upset you or hurt your feelings”.  Usually at this point they are either shocked that I thought it was my fault and they apologize and tell me what is really bothering them, or, with more encouragement from me they open up and tell me what I’ve done.  Either way I’m no longer left in my paranoid state of wondering.  If this is someone you deal with on a constant basis and they seem to get this way a lot then you need to ask them to let you know when it is you, or when they just need to be left alone.  It is okay for you to confront them because they may be huffing and puffing around you specifically so you will take notice and help them solve the issue.  And lastly, please remember to take any criticizm or blame they give you in an open manner.  If you have to, just say “Okay, thank you for telling me, I need to think about this for a bit and I’ll get right back to you”.   If you get defensive or get upset over what they tell you it will make them less likely to open up to you the next time you ask.

Paranoidly yours,

Miss Knowitall  

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