Catching Flies

I don’t know why I always forget that lesson about catching flies with honey, but I do. I forget that the most important words I can speak to others are words that make them feel useful, noticed and appreciated. And then the lightbulb, which had been quietly flickering in the corner of my overworked and underused brain, begins making that crackling noise. Before it blows entirely, giving it a proper twist into the threads allows it to shine brightly once again.

A fact of life is that we will encounter others with whom we have very little in common, cannot relate and do not like to spend any time. Oftentimes, in my life, this becomes obvious when some one I know or meet does not seem to get how absolutely hilarious I am. (I know. You’re shocked there are people like that in this world. It’s time we recognize this sad fact.)

I recently became acquainted with someone with whom every interaction seemed tinted with tension. Our relationship is essential to some activities our family engages in, and there was no avoiding her. Except every email, every text, every request from her left me reeling and out of sorts. (Ask my husband. He will laugh. When he stops laughing, he will confirm this.) Every time she asked for information or help or ideas, I heard a demand to know the inner workings of my life. I heard control. I heard inflexibility. I heard stuff I just don’t like to hear.

And then there came a day when I needed her, and herein lies my subtle genius. I confess that I did not anticipate my request for help having overlapping benefits.

I asked her if she could facilitate a group conversation. The result of the discussion helped the group perform more efficiently. And it fulfilled her need to be known, to be useful, to be recognized.

Oh, I am so dumb sometimes. Of course this smoothed our relationship. We’re practically best friends now. Oh, alright. That’s taking it a bit far. The reality is, my reaching out to her, admitting I needed her help, and asking for it opened up doors that previously I had no interest in opening. Finally, I could see her not as controlling and demanding, but incredibly organized and gifted in group situations.

Got someone or someones in your life like that? How do you mitigate the tension?