“Why won’t they leave me alone?!” she said.
We were both watching our daughters in a horse-riding lesson. Every few minutes her phone would ping, and she’d huff, type a reply, then put her phone away, only to be interrupted a few minutes later.
I wondered if it was an emergency – but apparently not.
“It’s my husband and mother in law. I don’t think they realise I’m here, with my daughter, in the middle of a riding lesson.”
“I just want to watch my daughter have her lesson!” she sounded exasperated.
I shared my philosophy with her – surely a text means you can send me a message whenever you choose, and I’ll reply when I choose. After all, if you want to have a same-time conversation, you can always call me.
“Oh no, you see, I like to be punctual…”
I think what she meant was she liked to be prompt. She didn’t like the thought of keeping people waiting. But were they really waiting in the first instance? And were they simply replying because she was replying to them?
What if they’re not leaving you alone because you’re not leaving them alone?
A similar conversation cropped up with a friend who works in the charity sector – where a work conversation for her was generally an outside-of-work conversation for everyone else:
“People who want to volunteer or fundraise for us generally do it outside of their working hours – so I quite often find emails arrive in the evenings after I’ve done a full day’s work.”
But how many of them would have been absolutely fine with her replying the next day, during her office hours, I asked? She smiled. The penny dropped.
Often the truth is, we don’t really want them to leave us alone – at least not forever. We still want to hear from our family, our friends, our supporters and our clients. Just maybe not right now.
And who says it has to be right now? What if it’s just you?
What if they’ve already left you alone – or at least left it with you, to pick up when you choose?
Sometimes when we feel taken for granted, it’s actually our own assumptions that we’ve taken for granted.
We often answer this question with some form of “because they…”. Have a go at starting it instead with “because I…” see where that leads you.
I’d love to hear what comes up for you. Let me know in the comments below!