Assumptions are the termites of relationship.
When someone seems cold toward you, don’t assume the worst. It’s a pity to allow a misunderstanding to occur or to simply write someone off without knowing what’s really going on.
Instead take a moment to communicate clearly and without blame. Try to get to the bottom of the interaction in a kind and rational way.
“You seem distant/angry/upset. Is something wrong?”
That simple question asked neutrally, with concern, and without malice can eliminate misunderstanding and hard feelings.
There are many possible reasons for someone to be cold, distant or rude, including the following:
1. They might just have an impersonal personality – a defense mechanism.
2. They might have something on their mind, such as financial difficulties or marital problems.
3. They might really feel offended or threatened.
4. They might not like you.
Soliciting an answer will help clarify the matter, one way or the other. In the former two cases, it may be beneficial for the person to know that his or her energy has a negative effective on others. You will certainly know not to take things personally.
In the latter two cases, your question might open up more candid and productive conversation. If not, at least the negative energy will lose some of its power over you when its cause becomes less of a mystery.
Recently I was getting a bid for some work from an acquaintance who seemed unusually cold to the point of rudeness. I was put off by his seemingly hostile behavior and planned not to hire him. But I thought the right thing to do was to call him and find out what was going on.
I called him up and said, “You didn’t seem your normal warm self. Is everything all right? Have I offended you?”
To my surprise, he laughed nervously and said that he had been told that in the past he was too familiar and relaxed on the job and needed to be more “professional,” which he took to mean being serious—very serious. I told him that I was relieved to have asked and that I preferred his normal warm demeanor.
What a blessing for both of us that I checked out my assumption before taking his “professional” demeanor at face value.
We never look beyond our assumptions and what’s worse, we have given up trying to meet others; we just meet ourselves.
by Alison Pouslen, PhD