Ask the Wrong Question, Get the Wrong Answer (A Lesson)

From an old journal entry: A lesson I need to remember.

Sometime ago, I was asked if I felt something for someone.

I’ve never felt attracted (physically, mentally, emotionally or any matter of lly’s) to anyone before, at least not in the butterflies in your stomach way. I had no information or protocol for answering this question except for my slightly weird grading system. And since that system may not be as flawless as I once thought, I did’t know what to say.

I was also asked what would happen if things got complicated. At least to this, I had one confident answer: we’d still be friends. I was confident things won’t get complicated–on my side anyway.

A Slippery Slope

It got complicated for him. Something I didn’t expect, because I thought he was “safe” as he also viewed love and attraction as nothing more but science (i.e. chemistry and biology) at work. I thought he just wanted to help or was just as curious as I was on why I’m incapable of attraction.

Now I’m thinking that’s not the whole story.

“Well it got complicated”

“I root for the couple to work it out”

“I will find a girl who will be real and vulnerable with me and I will treat her right”

I didn’t realize the full implications of these words when we were talking. I got so caught up in my desperation to make him understand I meant no harm (and that I wasn’t trying to control him), that I missed the signs. All I wanted was for him to find happiness– not with me of course. But I feel like that part of my message got lost in translation in my effort to explain the virtues of forgiveness and pain (both in friendship and in love).

My brain is still having trouble comprehending this, but I can’t find another explanation for those words, other than what my other guy friend said: secretly or subconsciously, he was checking if I could be the girl he could be vulnerable with.

Vulnerable friends? Sure. Someone to date? Not so much. That thought never crossed my mind, even after his snap judgement hurt me and I got curious about him.

Whatever the case, it was the wrong question. 

The question asked should’ve been: Will I date him? or Will I consider a relationship with him? (instead of the question about attraction).

I wouldn’t have agreed to his invitation if I knew he had these ideas early on. If my friend’s interpretation was correct, that meant he was compromised.

But it’s my fault. I should’ve seen it coming the moment he asked about things getting complicated.

If he asked the — No, scratch that. If I rephrased the question to “Will I date him” or “Will I consider a relationship with him” instead of answering the “tension” or “attraction” question head on, I would have been able to give a straight answer.

I already had data to formulate a logical response, it’s just that I failed to connect the dots because a different trigger/question was used.

Given the right trigger, I would’ve realized that

  • The person is younger than the guys I usually date.
  • I wouldn’t have liked the fact that he had no long-term relationship experience because that meant he’s not yet mature as a partner. I saw evidence of this, too. But my confirmation bias– the desire to believe I found someone with roughly the same mindset as me– was so powerful I missed the glaring signs about his trust issues and easy dismissal of people.

And this is one of my biggest lessons in asking the right questions, outside the sphere of work. Previously, I’ve only seen the applications of using the right questions in talking to new clients or negotiating new projects. Now, I also see its importance in social dealings.

Stoicism and Controlling Myself

Since I’ve been practicing stoicism for almost a year now, I know that the I can only control my thoughts and actions.

I can explain my point of view well enough, but I can’t and will not force it on others. This encounter has made me realize that sometimes, however well-meaning and purely explanatory my ideas are, it may come off as an effort to control someone else. Right now, all I can say is I’m just trying to explain myself– to make my ideas heard and understood– not necessarily followed. But I need to find a way to make that clear.

Perhaps, I can avoid this compulsion to explain my ideas by asking questions, and then letting people come to their own conclusion. If they truly understood my explanation, they will arrive at pretty much the same conclusion (or another variation of it). If they’re seeing things from a different point of view or are not open to my ideas, then they’ll arrive at a different answer. All consequences are okay. What matters is I communicated. The outcome is up to the other person.

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