I recently took a little holiday to get some sister medicine. I love our visits. We laugh, craft, and generally get up to silly antics.
One of the things I love about hanging out with her is actually something we do ahead of time.
We realized about 15 years ago that sometimes we had different ideas about how we wanted to hang out. We’ve discovered a little system for making sure that both of us get the most out of our limited time together.
We started sharing what we call our, “Head plans.”
These are our secret intentions about how we want something to go. About a week before this trip we revealed our head plans old school styles – on the telephone. We discussed what we both hoped to happen during my visit. Out of our lists, we found the overlap – the things that we both wanted to do.
Next we discussed where we might need to compromise if one of us really wanted to do something and the other not.
We have deep respect for our individual needs and that we sometimes require different stimuli to feel joy.
I believe true besties are okay with what their loved ones need to feel alive and excited. Even if that means being independent or doing something on their own part of the time.
The trick is to communicate.
Ahead of time. It sounds formal and contrived but it saves a world of sadness, confusion, disappointment, resentment, and lost friendships. And those things don’t resonate with health.
Let’s take an example of two friends named Sarah and Diane going on a nature hike. They have been friends for a while, adore each other, and think the same way about a lot of things. They have never done an activity like this together yet. Because they are so used to their common ground they don’t even consider that they might have different intentions for the hike. They don’t even think to chat about their head plans.
Side note story:
I hate onions. They have tremendous health benefits but I hate them. I never consider buying them, cooking with them, or eating them. They’re not in my consciousness. When I go to a restaurant I’m not thinking about onions. I order my food and since onions are not on my conscious mind I often forget to say, “No onions, please.” The food arrives, loaded with the evil onions and I am frustrated with myself for forgetting that onions are on everyone’s consciousness. It’s not the restaurants fault. I didn’t tell them. End side note.
So Sarah has an intention for the day. She hopes to enjoy nature and challenge her level of cardiovascular fitness. It’s an awesome intention and it differs from that of Diane. Her desire it to be in nature, really take the time to enjoy her (nature’s) beauty and take some lovely photos to create unforgettable keepsakes. It’s also an awesome intention.
The two friends don’t tell each other their head plans and embark on the adventure assuming they are on the same path. And while they are literally and physically, mentally they’re not. During the hike Sarah’s pace takes her ahead of Diane who keeps her leisurely pace while stopping for selfies and nature basking moments along the way. Later Sarah is surprised when Diane admits she felt sad and disappointed that Sarah left her behind, which of course was not Sarah’s intention.
How could this duo have done things differently and prevented these hurt feelings?
Five Steps to Prevent Disappointment in Relationships:
Step one: Discuss the head plans.
Ask each other the following questions:
- What are your intentions for the day?
- How do you feel about this… I’m really hoping to…
- What would have to happen for today to feel like a success to you?
- What would make you happy today?
Step two: Find the overlap.
For Diane and Sarah the overlap is being in nature.
Step three: Determine if there is enough overlap to satisfy both parties.
Step four: Make sure you have a plan in place for how both needs (if they differ) can be met.
Step five: Troubleshoot independent needs.
For example if Sarah wants a physical push she could say, “Diane I’d like to charge up the rest of this hill. Would you like to come with me or shall I wait for you at the top?”
Or if Diane wants to hang out a bit longer in a certain spot she could suggest, “I love how the light is catching the lake in this spot and I wanna pause to take some pics. Would you like to join me or shall I meet you at the next trail map?”
These little contingency plans will save the friendship from getting gobbled up by any misunderstandings.
- Honestly state what each is intending and needing.
- Provide two options for the other party. The inclusion part is a beautiful thing. The invitation to share an experience welcomes a deeper level of connection.
- Make a plan for reconnecting. This is particularly important.
- Respect the other’s intentions.
- Respect the places where the intentions differ.
- Prevent one from holding the other back from experiencing what they want.
There is no resentment, no sadness, no disappointment, and no frustration because of the head plan preamble. Both parties are now free to enjoy the shared experience in the way they had intended.
If one party really wants to do something and the other party really doesn’t want to do that thing, sometimes the paths need to diverge for a while. This is not personal. This just affirms that people – even the closest of friends – sometimes have different needs. And I believe that diversity makes life richer.
Bottom line: Share your head plans people! 🙂
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a similar or different system to make sure you are equally supported and supportive in your relationships? Comment below.
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Here’s to your thriving, healthy, delightful life,