The topic for this post came to me yesterday, as I realized I was working really hard to connect with some people I’d recently met. It seemed like I was the one making most of the effort, which, initially, wasn’t really a problem. But when it started to feel imbalanced and confusing, I realized that I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate what was going on.
The idea of “go where you’re wanted” is an important one in business- and in life- because we can spend tremendous amounts of energy trying to connect with people, make relationships with them, and fit in with them- when they (for whatever reason) have no interest in being connected to us.
You see this to some degree in social media, perhaps when you want to “friend” someone, and they take a long time before accepting your request- if they even do. Unfortunately, social media makes it pretty easy to ignore or reject people, and so you can be left wondering if they haven’t yet gotten the request, or if they’ve decided to ignore it. The uncertainty of this can be uncomfortable, especially because nobody wants to be a pest, but we have all been told that we shouldn’t be afraid to follow up either.
This uncertainty and discomfort also shows up in your real life business relationships, and business friendships, too. There comes a time where, for whatever reason, people may not be as responsive to you as before- you reach out in email, and get no response. Maybe you take one more step and make a phone call, but never get a call back. You don’t know why things are different- you just know that they are. This can kick off a cycle of worry and stress. You might try harder to connect, only to be continually rebuffed.
In psychology, there is this concept of the extinction response- and that applies here. When you have been reinforced for a behavior (let’s say you call someone and they always take your call), when they stop taking your call, you actually will want to call them more- to try harder to recapture what you previously had. (This, of course, plays out in personal relationships too.) Anyway, with the extinction response, there tends to be an increase in the behavior in a rapid spike- and then the behavior dies off. In the clearest sense, behavior which is no longer reinforced will eventually stop.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it is often painful to realize that a relationship has changed, especially if this happened without warning or conversation. You’re left, in a sense, to “figure it out on your own”- and that deduction can be a long time coming.
In my case, I have learned to step back and re-evaluate whenever I get this particular feeling that I’m trying to hard to make something happen. Since my tendency is to work hard for what I want, I know that this sometimes means I work too hard in relationships too.
When I take that space, it allows me to get a little bit more clarity and to stop feeling confused. That’s the first step to making a better choice going forward. This idea of going where you’re wanted doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to connect with people or make an extra effort. It just means that you realize when your extra efforts don’t seem to be doing any good, and you stop doing more when you need to be doing less.
Personally, my approach is to give people two tries. I will make two concerted efforts in a short period of time, and if I get no response, or an unsatisfactory response, I let it go.
Remember, the time you spend trying to connect with people who don’t want to be around you can be much better- and more satisfactorily- spent by connecting with those who do.