The Secret to a Successful Social Life

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Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk RX with Doctor Neha. Today I have a guest named Annalyn who is excited to ask her communication questions so everyone can learn. Welcome and thanks Annalyn.

Annalyn: Thanks for having me.

Doctor Neha: What are you thinking about?

Annalyn: Last night I invited a girlfriend over for dinner because the first time that we made plans, I ended up having a spring ceremony that a friend of mine was hosting. I invited this friend to come along, but I didn’t get the quality of time to talk with her. So I invited her over via email because I don’t like long texts. She told me, “Here are my days. I’m available Saturday night, Monday and Thursday.” So I wrote, “Well, Thursday seems like so far away and so much is happening in my life. Let’s make it closer.” She writes, “Okay, well, I have a friend staying over on Saturday.” So I said, “Monday works for me; can we do it Monday?” She agreed. So I asked, “Do you have any food allergies? What do you like? Are you craving anything?” I like to get creative.

Doctor Neha: That’s thoughtful.

Annalyn: Then I got an email from her that said, “Actually, I like to keep Mondays open.” The last time I’ve seen her was in a group setting and she told me, “I really, really want to talk to you. I want quality time with you.” It seems important to her, yet she wants to keep Monday open for something that may or may not happen with work. I don’t know how to respond to her because I’m a busy girl.

Doctor Neha: How did that leave you feeling when you got that response?

Annalyn: I felt like she didn’t value our time together as much as maybe I did, like there was an inequality there.

Doctor Neha: And maybe somehow you were trying harder than she was to make this happen?

Annalyn: In a different way almost. I think she’s trying. I just don’t know if she’s committed to make what she wants to happen, happen.

Doctor Neha: Okay, tell me what’s really happening for you. If you could have an honest conversation with her, what is it that you really want to know?

Annalyn: I kind of want to know: Does she get to know people one on one? Because for me it’s really hard to open up. She’s from Switzerland and loves big dinners—who doesn’t? I do too, but when I’m trying to get to know people at that dinner table, it’s really hard when there are 20 other people and dim lights in a French restaurant in the East Village. Or when there’s an event, so you’re trying to all focus your energy on someone’s birthday or going away party or someone’s promotion. I want to have time with her, but I don’t want it to have to be some kind of a celebration. I see her do so much for other people, and I want to do something for just her. That’s how I relate. I think her quality time might be different.

Doctor Neha: So you said a bunch of pretty important things. One is that the way that you receive connection is one on one and the way that she might be receiving connection and feeling good is in a group. Does she tend to plan these events that you’re talking about?

Annalyn: Yeah, every single one of them.

Doctor Neha: So that’s clearly her comfort zone, right?

Annalyn: Right.

Doctor Neha: My first thought was to find out what she is waiting to find out for Monday night? But it’s not the right answer even though it was my first instinct. What I think is more accurate is what you’re saying, which is maybe you just connect in different ways.

Now, she’s European, so there may be a cultural difference as well. Right? There’s a little bit of the straight-shooting piece, which is, “You said you wanted to connect with me. I’m trying to do it and now you’re not showing up.” Whether someone actually wants to do something or not is told by whether they actually do it. Right?

Annalyn: Right.

Doctor Neha: Wanting to do something but maybe wanting to do it in a different way might be what’s happening.
How about if you be her and I’m going to do a little role playing in how I would ask you about this. You’re going to be her. I’m going to be you.

Annalyn: Okay.

Doctor Neha: All right. “Annalyn, do you have a couple minutes? I wanted to talk through how I’m showing up in our relationship and how I might do it more effectively. Do you have like five minutes?”

Annalyn: Sure.

Doctor Neha: “Okay, is now a good time?”

Annalyn: Sure.

Doctor Neha: Now’s good? Okay, great. You always want to make sure you get someone’s buy in, make sure it’s good time for them. Then I say, “Hey, Annalyn, do you remember when I sent you that email and asked if we could get together? You wrote back and had given me a few days that worked for you. I picked Monday because it seemed too far to go all the way to Saturday. Do you remember that?”

Annalyn: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doctor Neha: “Then I received response back from you that said, ‘I like to keep Mondays open.’ The story I’m making up in my head is you plan all these big events and it seems like that might be a more comfortable venue for you to connect in with other people. Is that true?”
You always shift back to a question because if you’ve made up a story about it, you want to let someone know this is what I’m thinking, but I’m curious if that’s true for you.
Then I’d continue, “Then the second piece is when you told me you wanted to wait on Monday night and kind of leave it open, I don’t know. I felt disappointed and yeah, just a little bit …”
Would you say you were hurt? Or what would you say? What emotions?

Annalyn: I think I was just confused, and I didn’t want to express that confusion.

Doctor Neha: Why?

Annalyn: Because I respect her, and she’s someone whose time I really value. I don’t want to confuse her.

Doctor Neha: No, you’re not going to confuse her. Not at all.

Annalyn: Confuse myself.

Doctor Neha: By not addressing something like that, you actually create distance between you and someone else. Then you’re walking on eggshells trying to see what will work or not work for her. Right?

Annalyn: Right.

Doctor Neha: This is how it sounds. “Annalyn, we went back and forth on our emails talking about what would be a good time. Once we settled on Monday I got the response back from you that you want to keep Monday open. I really want to spend time with you, and I know you spend time creating large events. I think that might be a more comfortable space for you to be social. Is that true?”
Then let her speak whatever it is. Then you say, “When I got that response back, I was so excited to spend time with you sooner than later. When you said you just wanted to leave it open, I don’t know. I felt a little confused so I wasn’t sure why. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I’m just wondering if our connection is something you’re interested in deepening [or is this relationship something that you’d be interested in spending some one-on-one time with]?” Then the part of you that’s vulnerable is the part of you that takes a deep breath and let’s her answer. You see what I mean?

Annalyn: Right. Talking to you makes me realize I have some personal questions for her because she was raised in a different way than I was, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking at a table of 30 people, but maybe she does.
That’s the reason why I want to have her over just by herself is because I want to ask her some personal questions about being raised in a communal household.

Doctor Neha: Have you told her that?

Annalyn: No.

Doctor Neha: Oh, well, you might want to say, “I love seeing you at group events. What I haven’t told you is I’m so interested in your background and how you were raised, I’d love to hear about it. I need to do it in a setting where you’re not running around trying to take care of everybody. I can just connect to you. Is that something that you’re interested in?”

Doctor Neha: Is that helpful?

Annalyn: Yep.

Doctor Neha: Okay, well here we go. If you have been trying to get a dinner or quality time with someone you care about and you’re running into some walls or barriers, take a step back, pause and start asking yourself, “What haven’t I told the other person about why this is important to me?” and “How can I get curious and understand how they connect well and build a bridge so that we can do what’s important for both of us and find common ground?” Thanks for joining us.

Your Awareness Prescription to Successful Social Planning

If you’re having trouble making an agreement with someone else, ask yourself:

  1. What’s important about this activity to me (e.g., attending a particular event, spending time with this person, or both)?
  2. What haven’t I told them about why this is important to me?
  3. What does the other person value? What works best for the other person?
  4. Am I willing to be flexible with how we spend time together?
  5. How can we find common ground and get clear about what we want?

Meet you here, same place, same time—next Thursday!

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