3 Reasons Others May Seem Cold and Distant
The woman walked out of the room just after I had put the crook of my elbow to my face to stifle a cough. She was sitting right behind me. The look on her face spoke loudly that she was not pleased with what had just occurred.
My first thought was that she had been offended that I even came to church, coughing as much as I was. I forgot to use my inhaler that morning, and my asthma was acting up. I knew I needed to check out my assumption, but I did not see her after the service to do so.
When I arrived home, my mind was alive with all the possibilities of why she had left. Should I call and ask? I didn't know her very well, and had not had success previously when I tried to call or text. I felt very uncomfortable and didn't want to exacerbate an already touchy situation.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the problem may not have been me at all. In the past, when I have visited with people thinking that I have offended them, I usually find out that is not the case at all.
There are many reasons others may seem cold and distant. This is a universal issue in regards to relationships. Three of these reasons are in the table below, and they are explained in the paragraphs that follow.
There are things going on in their lives at the present, leaving little room for care and concern for others.
They are feeling particularly out of sorts, either physically or emotionally.
They do not realize the messages they are sending through their own non-verbal communication repel others from them.
The Circumstances of Life
The circumstances of our lives play a large part in how we think, feel, and act. Our failure to recognize the connection between our circumstances and our actions has a direct affect on those around us. Our ability to change our actions in spite of our physical circumstances is a sign of emotional maturity.
I have a dear friend that is experiencing a crisis in her family. Usually, she is very open, loving, and caring. During this crisis, however, she did not do what she normally does, reach out to others and help them work through their difficulties.
I thought that she was pulling back in our relationship. As a result, I had done a thorough self-examination thinking that something I had done was the cause. Then she shared her family crisis with me, and I understood what was happening.
There have been many times in my own life where I have experienced crises, and turning my time and attention to the matter at hand, I have neglected those that I normally have contacted. When they found out about the crisis I was experiencing, they asked why I had not reached out to them.
The thought had never occurred to me. I was simply trying to do the best I could under the difficult circumstances I was facing. Turning to others for help never crossed my mind.
As I thought of these things, I realized that perhaps this woman had a crisis in her life that I did not know of or understand. If so, that would explain her actions in church that day. Realizing this brought relief to my own heart.
Our Physical and Emotional State of Being
Our own physical and emotional state of being affects how we think, feel, and act. When a we are "out of sorts" we lose our own footing and are unsure of how to be, or even who to be.
My first mental health crisis came in the wake of ten years of physical health issues that had finally ended with surgery. Suddenly, I had my physical health back and I could do things that I had not done in a long time.Others noticed the level of energy I had and, coupled with my talent and ability, made me the candidate of their need for assistance.
Before long, I had a string of volunteer positions that I was doing on a regular basis, along with caring for my seven children and a husband busy with work and church responsibilities. It wasn't long before I became lost in an organizational nightmare, planning my life out in 15 minute increments from 5:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night.
The day I saw the knives in the drainer, I could see in my minds eye a means of escape. All it would take was to pick them up and let them fall into my chest. As the vision of the blood flowing burst upon my senses, the glint of the sun on the knives through the window brought me back to reality and I called the doctor.
I was immediately taken to the mental health unit for treatment. After two weeks of inpatient therapy, I was graduated to a day treatment center. During the intake appointment, the first thing they did was take away my planner!
Has someone in your world been cold and distant lately?
Our non-verbal communication speaks louder to others than what we actually say. During my time in the day treatment center, I learned this in a profound way. It meant that I didn't have to pretend to be a better person when around others. I could be myself and it was okay.
This congruence between our non-verbal communication and our sense of well-being was new to me. I decided that from then on, if I didn't like what was happening, I would speak up.
I became like the woman who walked out of the classroom that day. I set limits in my relationships, in my volunteer work, and in my personal life. If I felt it was too much, I said "No" and stuck to it. If I was uncomfortable in a situation, I left.
I learned that our non-verbal communication matches more of what we are feeling than what we say. We may say we are fine, but if we do not look fine, most likely, we are not. I learned that the best thing to say when I see someone I know is, "It is good to see you" rather than "Hi, how are you?"
I learned that most people do not like to know how we really are, that I must be careful who I share my inmost thoughts and desires with. I became much more selective in the people I chose to be around. Those I ended up befriending were people who loved me, no matter how I looked or felt, and I was able to do the same for them in return. We could speak freely of the difficulties in our lives rather than pretending that they were not there.
Now that I live this way, I frequently have people say to me that I am "intimidating" or "cold and distant." Perhaps they feel uncomfortable with this honest openness, and aren't sure how to respond.
Nevertheless, I am much more able to perceive when others are in distress than I was before I experienced these things for myself. Perhaps that, then, is the gift of having experienced trials in life. We are much more understanding of others when they go through theirs!
Later, I was able to visit with the woman who left that day. I resolved in my mind on a possible scenario that could be distressing her. Her oldest child had recently moved out of the home to attend school. I remembered what it was like when my oldest left.
As I sat beside her and asked about her daughter, I related some of my own experiences, and we both were able to agree that yes, it was a difficult thing to let go of the apron strings and encourage our children to fly away from the nest. At the same time, isn't that what we wanted? For a moment, there was a connection.
Now, when I see her, I see a comrade, a fellow human being who has experienced the same thing as I. We are able to smile and laugh, and remember that, yes, we are not alone!
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© 2017 Denise W Anderson