If I remember correctly, my best friend Melissa Carr quit talking to me for almost 6 months. In these 6 months of pain, hurt, and silence, I learned one of my greatest life lessons.
I have always loved to talk. I have always loved to talk to all sorts of people for countless hours on various subjects. I have always loved to connect and share my experiences when I hear about someone else’s experience. When I was 16, I thought by sharing my experiences when I heard someone else’s experience, I was empathizing and making them feel supported. To my grand dismay… I actually was stealing their space. Of course, I didn’t know to define it with that language until now, but that’s what I was doing. Melissa let me know this loud and clear one day, and she let me know that by ending our friendship. I think this was probably one of my most painful times in high school. I also didn’t quite get it. “Amanda, you always make it about you!” she said. “Was I?” I thought. I rejected this idea. “No, I do not!” I retorted. Melissa didn’t fight back. She let it be, and I watched one of my best friends walk away.
Me in the middle left, Melissa in the middle right, on a high school trip to France
I am not quite sure what exactly occurred for our friendship to reconvene, but I do know that I thought on this topic for months before I was able to approach her with an apology.
Do I not share my experiences?
Do I not empathize?
How do I connect with people?
I became very conscientious in all my social interactions. If I found myself directing the conversation towards me, I quickly reacted and asked the person I was conversing with another question about their situation. I began to notice how easy it could be to steal the conversation. I began to take notice of people’s reactions. I read their faces and their body gestures. I began realizing that sometimes people need to just talk, and not be talked at. I began to understand that sharing of an experience was not always an invitation for advice or a response, but it was a simply a desire to be heard.
Over 10 years later and I still am working on this. Over 10 years and I am just learning the language to define what I was doing all those years ago. Guntram Herb introduced to us the idea of dominating spaces and it clicked in my head that all those years ago (and most likely still at times) that I have dominated space. That I have taken space from others that needed that space.
Me still dominating space as I push her out of the picture
Melissa Carr is still one of my closest and dearest friends. Over the years, I have thanked her multiple times for giving me this lesson. I doubt she knew the impact and the importance it would have on my life, and of course, I didn’t either. But it was just another life experience that has made me who I am today, and is preparing me for who I need to be in this field.