Two weeks ago I was sitting in the front row of a classroom, trying to listen to a lecture. The speaker projected her voice, but the two women sitting to my right were having an animated conversation, occasionally punctuated by giggles and chuckles. I found it difficult to hear over the noise.
I was also distracted by my thoughts:
I wish they’d be quiet. Why did they sit in the front row if they don’t want to hear the speaker? Maybe they’re old friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Maybe they’ll quiet down. I wish I’d sat somewhere else. I know I’ve been the person talking in a lecture hall but this is getting ridiculous!
I sighed heavily.
As soon as I sighed, I realized I was being passive-aggressive. I have been the person talking in a lecture and I’ve responded to the sighs and glares of my fellow attendees by shrinking in my seat, feeling chastised—like a child.
I did not want to be “the parent” to the women sitting next to me.
Ask for what you need, I thought. Then I sat and tried to figure out what to say so they wouldn’t be offended and I wouldn’t look like a jerk. I finally realized I couldn’t control what they were going to think about me, whatever I said and however I said it.
I leaned toward the woman next to me. She leaned toward me. “I’m having a hard time hearing over your conversation,” I said.
I’m sorry,” she said.
“That’s okay,” I said, “I’ve been there.” I smiled at her and turned back to the lecture.
She and her friend quieted down. Not the still silence of a child caught doing something bad, but the comfortable near-silence of two women paying attention to everyone around them, including me.
At the end of the lecture, the two women and I chatted about the lecture and our upcoming board exams. It was a lovely interaction that would never have happened had I just continued to sigh and, eventually, glare.
Ask for what you need, I thought again.
Do you ask for what you need?
Diane MacKinnon, MD, writes about and speaks on life coaching topics. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her website at www.dianemackinnon.com.
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