I had a rather nice visit with a friend today, but it didn't exactly start out that way. Many of you know that I am working on maintaining friendships using the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) Interpersonal Effectiveness skills. Here's what happened.
We met up for a nice lunch, which I had been looking forward to -- not much anxiety about it at all, which is progress. We sat down, ordered our food, and I excused myself to the restroom. When I got back, I realized she hadn't said anything about my new haircut.
I asked, "So, do you not like me new haircut?" -- never expecting to hear, "To be honest..."
She mentioned that she thought I looked more approachable before and that my hair looked messy now. I felt a rush of adrenaline in my stomach and chest. I was on the defense:
"Well, you're the first one to give me negative feedback about it, and I think just the opposite: I think it looks neater."
Realizing that I'd just sat up with my posture, and she was just looking at me a bit blankly at that point, I said, "Oh well, everyone has different taste, right? What matters is that I'm happy with it, and to be honest, I am."
It is the truth, too. I feel more like "me" with this shorter hair. I perceive it as being less messy, more youthful, and more pulled together than the style-less grow-out I was sporting.
The point of sharing this whole incident with you wasn't to make my friend look like a jerk. She's one of the most caring, honest, and open people I have ever met, and I've always appreciated that she doesn't sugar coat things and gives her honest opinion.
I had a sensitive moment, and I noticed the change in my mood on a physical level first. Isn't that interesting? My body responded before my brain (and when I looked up the visceral symptoms of my emotion in the Emotion Regulation section of my DBT binder when I got home, I identified the feeling as "anger," which is interesting to me.) Perhaps I was angry that I didn't receive the validation from my friend that cutting my hair was a good choice, even though I was personally happy with the results.
Once I was able to observe the shift, I realized I was heightened. My nervous system was quickly activated and on red alert. I still spoke my mind in return, but I took a deep breath and spoke as effectively as I possibly could. I don't think I could have hidden that I was a bit hurt and that I had become reactive in response to her comment, nor should I probably have tried.
One lesson that I learned is that if someone hasn't complimented you on your new haircut, it may be because they don't like it. (insert snort laugh) If we ask people for the truth, we should really be ready to hear it and accept it.
This made me think of many times in my life where I've asked for the truth, did not like the reality of what I heard, and either blew up in anger, caused an embarrassing scene, or became emotionally distraught.
I'm glad to tell you that none of the above happened. I remained calm, noticed my body and thoughts, and handled the situation in a mature way.
In practicing the Interpersonal Effectiveness skills, I put "attending to relationships" above any competing demands to "be right." I also practiced "self-respect effectiveness" by letting her know that it was okay that she didn't like it and that I still did.
Being a person withBorderline Personality Disorder, in the past I would easily shift and agree with someone who criticized something about me that I liked. In this case, even a couple of years ago, I likely would have dreadfully regretted my choice to cut my hair and would have been online that night to find a salon that did extensions to "fix me up."
My hair may have gotten shorter, but I've come a LONG way.