I seem to have a problem when I congratulate people for something and they don’t say anything in return – even though I know that their rationale could be anything and it does not need to have anything to do with me at all…. Yet, I seem to tend to think I must have possibly done something wrong which I am not aware of, and therefore I don’t ‘deserve’ a reply… in this situation I cannot express my feelings, i.e., ‘when you don’t do X/I feel Y’ , can I…? and most probably I will not congratulate them the year after, to do not expose myself to the same treatment twice…. but I feel this whole scenario is faulty somewhere…. and I cannot see what the good approach would be, here. Any thoughts, please…?
(a question Jeremy was asked on an online forum)
Given that we’ve not discussed this in any detail, I can only give you a few thoughts that I might pursue if a client raised this issue.
Firstly, I would be curious whether the problem is the other person’s silence or whether it is the denial of an expectation of being thanked for congratulating them that is the problem. Expectations are often subconscious, but no less real for that. When we expect something (particularly in return for doing something good) and don’t get it, we feel disappointed – hurt even. We might seek to rationalise that emotion logically (“I must have done something wrong and don’t deserve a reply”). It’s the idea that you “deserve” it which makes me wonder whether you expect it.
I suggest that, here, it is not necessarily helpful to express these feelings. The other person may feel that you are dumping them on them – the problem with being on the receiving end of someone’s expectation is that we perceive it as a demand and, on the whole, people don’t like demands being made of them. Expressing these feelings is likely to reinforce the demand in the other person’s eyes.
I suggest choosing to have a different approach. If it were the case that you have an expectation in this situation, then what would happen if you let go of that expectation? If you let go of your need to have the reply? Letting of things can be difficult, particularly if we tell ourselves that it will be. It isn’t – you always have a choice. Try replacing the expectation with curiosity. Be curious what would happen if you congratulated someone. Be curious about the response you get. What can you learn from it? How can you put it to good use?
But better, I suggest changing your attitude. At the moment, if you do have an expectation, then you are making the congratulating be about you – not about the person who is worthy of congratulation. If you resolve that their fitness to be congratulated is all that is important, you will be able to communicate it without the subconscious undercurrent of expectation. Paradoxically, you are more likely to get a favourable response because the other person will feel that the congratulation is given with authenticity.
In any case, if you think and act as if the other person is more important than you, you will find it much easier to give unconditionally and you will receive back so much more.
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 5 march 2013 . image: Free images