Stop writing scripts for your own life.
Things are going to happen in the way that they do, and no matter how many rewrites you make, no matter how much you try to step into the other person’s shoes, how realistic you think you’re being, no matter how perfect it all seems or how badly you want it… you never have more than your own part to play in any situation. Thinking to yourself in that if I say X then he’ll say Y way is not conducive to anything positive. The real interaction will always seem inferior or wrong, as if somehow the other party has failed to learn their lines.
You’ve never believed that life has a script, so why are you trying to write one for it?
Here’s a truth: other people often have their own ideas going into these situations, too. They might also know how they want things to work out. If they do, and if they have their own ideas about what I should or shouldn’t say, does that make my real contributions less valid? Of course it doesn’t. My needs and wants and desires are my own to share as and when I see fit.
Other people have different insights, emotional ranges and patterns, reactions, desires, limits, transferences, outlooks, issues and internal mechanisms to my own particular set. They will pick up on different nuances, have different boundaries and sensitive spots. They have different end goals, or different approaches. They are uniquely their own person, and will bring that to any situation in which they find themselves. All of those things that make me interesting are reflected, contradicted, outshone, or thrown into relief by others, and for them I do the same. In the context of a conversation, this makes every exchange unpredictable. Yes, that is an absolute. There is no exchange that can be predicted, regardless of whether or not you are successful in your attempt. Kind of like with betting; does the fact that you successfully predicted a 2-1 final score mean that that goal difference was inherently predictable? Of course not. That’s not how chance works.
Similarly, if you successfully predict that someone will turn you down, does that mean that you know what they’re going to say and do? No. You have no idea what went into that decision. You might think to yourself, this person will turn me down because they don’t like short people and then, when they do turn you down, you may feel as though your hypothesis has been confirmed. That person, however, may have turned you down due to any vast, incomprehensible number of reasons, from a recent break-up or an unrelated bad mood, to a suspicion that you weren’t serious or a fleeting resemblance to a family member. You can’t know these thoughts. They are unique to that person, and the decision does not belong to you.
You’ll drive yourself mad with trying to control conditions.
Believing that you can script conversations and interactions, even entire relationships, if only you try hard enough to get into somebody else’s head, is categorically insane. You’ll blame yourself for getting it wrong; you’ll put in more thought next time; you’ll allow for environmental conditions; you’ll solve for X. All the while, you’re making yourself less and less approachable. More closed-off.
Interactions, conversations, relationships and people. They’re unpredictable because of the unique elements brought by everybody in equal measure. That’s what makes human interaction so important to your own growth. If everybody bent to your will, followed your script, what would be the point? Is it really gratifying to plan out your own life and then follow along with your finger?
If you want the perfect scene as it exists in your head, you’re more than welcome to write it down.
Things change, plans change. Yes, sometimes it will be due to your own ever-evolving wants and needs, but sometimes it will be towards another’s and against your own. Being rigid and unforgiving isn’t a quality you would ever seek out in others, so why wear it yourself? Nobody is saying that you should be a doormat, or that others are more important than you. It’s important though, to keep things in perspective; on a scale.
So how does this turn into real change in attitude? What does it look like to bring this to life?
It’s not going to be easy. I know that already. There is no switch in my brain that I just need to flick. Identifying that this is something that I do in my life has been a hugely important step, I believe, but it’s the first of many. I need to learn to recognise the behaviour, and train myself to approach things differently. I need to be open-minded, reflective, and understanding. I need to slap my own hand away as it reaches for the metaphorical label-maker, constantly trying to categorise and compartmentalise the actions of others.
Not everything is about me. Most things aren’t, even those that seem like they should be. Sometimes even a direct interaction has nothing to do with the person it’s aimed at. I know this, because I am guilty of projection and transference too. Anticipating it in others doesn’t mean calling them out on it (that’s just another form of label-making), but it does mean allowing for unpredictability. If someone says something that appears to be out of the blue, you can probably rest assured that it didn’t seem that way to them.
You don’t know the whole story. You never, ever will. And do you know what?
That’s okay too.