“Pensive,” she said. “I would have to say I’m pensive. I’m always lost in thought.”
In the background, the coffee shop tinkled with soft conversation, as if it knew mornings were a delicate time for its inhabitants. She looked at him, head cocked sideways, looking back at her.
“You know,” running her fingers through her hair, “You know how they used to say, ‘treat people the way you want to be treated’? The Golden Rule, right?”
He nodded. He followed the motion of her fingers through her hair. He noticed they came away with a single strand of red hair entangled between them. Hmm, how odd, since she has black hair, he thought.
“Well, the new rule is to treat people the way they want to be treated.” She exhaled through her mouth, like a balloon with too much air in it. She threw her hand up in exasperation.
“But that’s nothing new to me. I’ve always been like that. It’s exhausting. I’m constantly acting as a mirror, reflecting back people’s own behaviors at them. And I don’t think they even know it. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it.”
“I imagine you get some pretty effective results,” he offered.
“I’ve noticed people tend to pay more attention. And the thing is, you need to wait. You need to wait for people to be ready to hear what you have to say. The best way to start getting ignored in meetings is to interrupt people. When you do something like that, it tells the person that you are okay getting interrupted, too. It tells them you don’t respect their thoughts and concerns. You only care about your own. Even though that’s not the impression you intended, people will think that.
She took a sip from her mug. “And people will treat you the way you treat them.”
“Everybody wants something. They want to be heard and validated. Just listen to them and let them finish their thoughts. But it’s so tiring being the only one who listens. When you hear what people really have to say, where does this information go? Is it stuck with me? I don’t want it to get stuck with me. I want it to go to the right people — but it’s not my responsibility to take it to the right people! It’s just my responsibility to listen, and make sure they feel hea—I’m not in charge here! I’m just not! What do people want with me!”
She stopped. She realized her volume level had risen, since a couple people had looked back at her curiously.
He shifted his posture and shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. But just be okay with it. I know you’re tired, but people appreciate it more than you know. But make sure you make time to take a break from it all.”
Take a break from it all…
Theresa blinked. She’d been staring out the bus window for several minutes. She was at her stop now.
She mentally cleared her head, stood up, thanked the bus driver, and started the walk to her work building.