In fact, I should be asking questions especially if I am sure of the answer.
My recent experiences have led me to believe that taking people at face value is not always helpful. Over the years, I have always initially treated someone the way I would like to be treated. Some people would say I respect you.
I expect you to do the right thing until you don’t.
Then my perception of you changes. But this is often a gradual process unless you have gone off the reservation and done something major. However, over time I know who I can trust and who I am not sure about.
I’m not much of a gossip anyway, so it’s not often where I even share my thoughts about someone.
But I am only human, and I gossip on occasion and even say things that I really shouldn’t. I should probably trust my “Spidey sense” more. I have approached situations from an uncomfortable stance because that’s what my employees expected. And the person I speak with does not get the chance to share their situation.
I am making up the ending before I hear the story, which means I am fortune-telling.
So, is it once again my depression causing me to use unhelpful thinking or am I just so sure of the situation, that I don’t need to hear anything? Recently, I have entertained this question quite often. And it really is a question about all the unhelpful thinking styles my depression uses.
How much of my actions are depression and how much is me being who I am?
And by heading over here to think about this question, I can dodge my own actions over the past few weeks. I wish it was easier for me to talk and really listen to what someone is saying. However, I have done this a few times recently and I learned a lot about the other person. I was even able to ask questions based on what was said.
Usually, I am looking for a pause in your speech, so I can say what I want to say.
It is almost as if we are having two different conversations. You are saying what you need to say, and I am replying with my agenda. We are talking, but not listening. Or worse, you are listening and are hearing me push my ideas, without regard for you or how it might affect you.
Once last year, I took a day and really, truly focused on what someone was saying.
To stay in the moment and hear and understand what someone is saying takes a lot of energy and focus. But as I found out, the rewards can be immense. I casually engaged a customer about something, and in less than 3 minutes, learned about his life, his grandchildren, and one hope he had for the future.
And I invested barely three minutes of my time.
It turns out that these opportunities to engage others and actively listen are not as widespread as I had assumed. When I look closer at the idea, there are relatively few chances to hear what someone else is saying. Each day, there may be a hand full of times when I can put myself aside and focus on what someone else is saying. If I miss those times because I am “too busy,” then I am losing out on a chance to learn more about someone. And I miss out on learning things that I may be able to use in the future.
So why can’t I put aside my needs for these few times each day, and focus on what someone else is saying?
Am I so insecure that I must say what I am thinking regardless of what the conversation is about? Is what I feel I must say so much more important than what someone else is telling me? Why must I push through these moments so I can get back to me and my agenda? Taking a step back and looking at my actions is revealing.
Ignoring what is being said so I can say what I think is more important is selfish.
And it is devaluing to the person who is sharing with me. I never would have pegged myself as a person who doesn’t listen. After all, people come to me when they want things done. They know if they tell me about a problem, that I will address it.
What is the difference in doing this versus someone sharing something about themselves?
When there is a problem to be solved, I can make it about me. I can do something for the other person. It allows me to act on their behalf. And I can get back to the person with an answer. This makes it about me in many ways.
I pay attention because I can make the conversation about me and my ability to solve a problem.
After all, isn’t that one of my many roles as a manager? Am I not charged with solving problems within company policy? So why shouldn’t I make it about me and my ability to get things done? I am doing what the employee or customer, or vendor is asking. I am championing their needs and getting X#%! done.
Our recently retired COO used to say that much of a manager’s job is to “get X%$! done.”
I admire him and his abilities. It was very easy to see why he was in the position that he held. You always felt that you could speak with him, that he always had time for you. Maybe that is what I am missing. My body language says that I am way too busy to stop and deal with your petty issues.
What I am focused on is way more important and pressing than anything you may be thinking about.
And while this is not what I wish to do, it is what I see that I am doing. I imagine that if I asked 10 employees, 8 or 9 would say that I am always busy with something. And this business creates a barrier to conversation, sharing, and understanding. Plus, it gives me the excuse to not engage someone. After all, I am busy with what is really important.
My actions seem to have little to do with my depression, but everything to do with unhelpful thinking.
Perhaps I can put the blame on depression for my actions. After all, I would be a different person were it not for my diagnosis of MDD, major depressive disorder. Or at least that is what I am telling myself. If I did not have that diagnosis to put the blame on, then I would have to accept responsibility for my actions. And that could be painful for me, so I am avoiding that.
Why would I accept responsibility for my actions when I can blame my depression?
What is it that keeps me from taking full responsibility for me? Am I embarrassed by my actions? Would I make a different decision if it was me that was in charge and not my depression? I would like to think that the decisions I make are my own and that they are good despite my depression. As you can tell, I am grappling with the idea of who is really in charge of me, my thoughts, and my actions.
I am seeing that what I thought was a clear distinction, is not that clear after all.
Yes, depression is always tossing out unhelpful thinking. But the more I look at my thoughts and actions, it seems I would be experiencing these unhelpful thoughts even if I did not have MDD. So why am I avoiding responsibility for my thoughts and actions by placing it on my depression?
In the past, I would just sweep the crumbs of a depressive episode under the rug and move on.
Maybe I should be doing more of that. Thinking back, I have come out of all my previous depression’s appearances strong and optimistic. There were no lingering questions or issues to work through. I was over it, whatever it was, and I was ready to face the day, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Now I am in a constant state of reflection.
I am second guessing all my actions, and all my thoughts. I attribute feelings to depression and do not always see them as the results of my actions. And I am not able to move forward in a “here we go” attitude. I miss that.
So once again, I am seeing myself doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
For a little over four years, I have been facing depression, calling it out by its name. I am not side-stepping It and saying to myself “it’s just one of those things.” I did not sweep this episode under the rug and walk away happy that I could get on with my life.
While I have never had an episode of depression that put me in the hospital until four years ago, I probably should have done something different for my “lost year.”
Maybe I would not have gone through this recent slide into the abyss. I possibly would have already had tools I could use to stop my circling the drain. And I might not have made decisions that went counter to almost 40 years of planning.
But treatment for depression in the late ‘70s was far less advanced than it is today.
And the medications available then were potentially scary, with, as I am told, often undesirable side effects. Potentially, I could be worse today if I had not waited until four years ago to face my depression.
And this is before I consider stigma and its impact on my life.
This leads me to wonder how I am really doing. Am I avoiding engaging with people so as not to trigger something. Is facing my depression an excuse for not taking responsibility for my actions. While I hope that is not true, I am beginning to think otherwise. I may be on to something. And if this is the case, I will need to spend more time working on this idea.