#109 Complaining dinner friend an embarrassment
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are occasionally invited out to eat at expensive restaurants by a couple with whom we are friendly. The problem is the wife never fails to complain about the food. It's the wrong meal, it was prepared incorrectly, it wasn't what she ordered, etc. Even after her demands have been catered to, she continues to complain throughout the entire meal.
It is embarrassing to see the wait staff treated this way. We have become hesitant about joining them, but out of fear of hurting their feelings, we go. Then we regret having had to spend so much money and having been embarrassed once again.
What should we say the next time we are invited? Should we tell the truth or make up an excuse? —EMBARRASSED IN OHIO
DEAR EMBARRASSED: The next time you are invited to join them, tell the woman you have “other plans.'' (It's true. You "plan'' not to be embarrassed again.)
If, after repeated refusals, the woman asks if there is "something wrong,'' tell her exactly what you have
told me. Her behavior is boorish and a bid for attention. —Abby
Hi Embarrassed: Awesomely valuable letter, most everyone has a similar problem.
Your relationships have grown as much as they can with your present communication model (the way you relate and interact). In coaching jargon you’ve mastered talking. Talking causes relationships to inevitably bog down personal-growth-wise because of thoughts being withheld.
“Your next mission Ms. Phelps, if you accept…” is called communication mastery. Once you’ve formulated the intention to master communication you will start generating more desirable problems.
The communication mastery curriculum begins with a willingness to acknowledge that your leadership-communication skills have produced this result. Notice that throughout your letter you use the word “we” rather than I. You can’t resolve the problem until you accept responsibility for having created it.
It’s not very valuable to try to resolve this problem with your dinner friend because you brought your present leadership-communication skills into your relationship with her. She never stood a chance with you because you have yet to commit yourself to communicating openly, honestly, and spontaneously, zero thoughts withheld. If you were a person of integrity, one that could be trusted to say what’s on her mind, you wouldn't be interacting socially with someone addicted to complaining. Conversely, if your husband were in integrity he would support you in communicating your thoughts to her instead of dumping them in his space.
It could be said that you brought her into your life to mirror for you your addiction to withholding thoughts and its effects. For us to effect a transformation in the kinds of problems you generate you will have to recall the very first time you stuffed a thought. That incident is called your “first” —the first incident having to do with withholding. That was when this pattern set in. Thereafter you were not as spontaneous as you had been. Had your parents been conscious they would have immediately noticed that you were sitting on something. Among those that communicate openly and honestly any thought withheld is experienced by the other(s); it’s an aura thing. It’s referred to as an incomplete. Something is in the space; something is serving as a barrier to you being here now. It begs completion. It prompts from others, “What up?” “What’s going on?” “A penny for your thoughts.”
What you have been unaware of is that your judgments of her do get communicated to her, non-verbally. It just so happens that she is equally incomplete, so out integrity that she too withholds her thoughts of you; like yourself, she too most likely badmouths you to her husband on the way home.
She has unconsciously set you up. At some level she sees the potential for honesty with you and is hoping that as the leader you’ll find a way to share your experience of this objectionable behavior of hers with her, to her face. Like yourself, having had no choice, up till now, but to sit self-righteously on your judgments, she too has had no choice but to behave as she has. Everyone she knows throughout her life has either criticized her (which further anchors an undesirable behavior) or has “politely” put up with this behavior and so she has become stuck. She’s had to keep repeating it until someone gets her. Compassionate conversations will allow her to complete the pattern.
There is a way to tell the truth and have everyone feel good upon completion, it’s called communication.
Thanks for the great letter. —Gabby