I am having ongoing difficulties in getting heard and am feeling really discouraged to the point that I don’t want to bother trying to communicate or assert as I feel it doesn’t work anyhow. I’ve done numerous communication, assertiveness and conflict resolution courses and use the suggested techniques (outline the facts, stating the feeling, wants and at times a positive or negative consequence using neutral language, I statements, asking the other person/s what they think, what would work etc). But I don’t get heard.
At work I don’t get taken seriously by a colleague I work with on a joint project, my asserted work needs & suggestions get ignored. I’ve discussed this with my manager asking I be included on planning meetings they have explaining I could raise my work needs & suggestions & I work better when I have the context rather than be given bits of work. I make many suggestions of how I can contribute meaningfully on work projects but am getting more & more admin work. I wasn’t employed to do full time admin but in a skilled role needing qualifications. I’ve done work I’ve been given well & enthusiastically. I’d like to discuss this concern with my manager but fear I won’t get heard as nothing has changed when I’ve discussed things with my manager in the past.
I coordinate a group, we meet to agree on dates & events for the year. At times have people cancel at the last minute meaning an event has been cancelled. I’ve face to face & via email asked that they advise they can’t come as soon as they know so that as much notice of an event cancellation can be given to give the 1-2 who can make it time to make other arrangements & avoid last minute disappointment. I’ve phrased this by giving the facts, acknowledging things come up but to advise ASAP, the impact of last minute event cancellations on others especially hosts but there are still last minute cancellations. I’d suggested people feel free to arrange additional impromptu events but said if someone were to do so please RSVP quickly either way otherwise no one will want to organize anything if no one responds. The other week I’d issued an invitation to have only 1 person acknowledge it.
With initiating new friendships I’m so discouraged there as despite joining many things I feel afraid to initiate things as people often say no they are too busy. So I target activities that are ongoing so I have contact with the same people so friendships build slowly without initiating too early to be knocked back.
In past workplaces I’m often not included in pub invites or lunches with others who do a similar job. Advising I know of such events and would be interested in being invited doesn’t work.
I hence now feel awkward and shy, not wanting join in informal activities (e.g. invite myself to sit and chat to the other tenants in my block of flats who sit int he front garden) preferring more formal structured activities.
I’m at a dead end here. I’ve been to therapy, been told I have good communication skills, I have no personality disorders. I’m generally positive, well presented, interested in others, talk about a wide range of things, keen to get out there. I don’t bitch or say negative things about people. I’ve worked hard on communication and assertiveness. I just don’t feel like continuing to try.

A. There is an expression made famous by fictional character George Costanza from the hit TV show Seinfeld. When he wanted to break up with someone, he said, “It’s not you it’s me.” In this case, I might say, “it’s not you, it’s them.” In some respects, what you may be describing is the nature of people.

Take, for instance, the last minute cancellations by your coworkers. You sent out reminders and requests asking people to respond by a particular date because you knew what would happen if they were to wait. You did everything you could to ensure a particular outcome and still it did not work. There is nothing else you could have done.

Many people wait until last minute to do almost everything. One good example is taxes. The analysts from FiveThirtyEight.com wrote an article with an informative title: “Everyone Files Their Taxes at the Last Minute.” They characterized Americans as a “nation of procrastinators.” Over 20 million people waited until the last minute to submit their tax returns. It’s not personal; some people (perhaps many people) are procrastinators.

Anecdotally, I noticed this same kind of procrastination among college students. Most students write their papers “last-minute.” Certainly, there are some conscientious students who spend the appropriate amount of time working on their papers. They start in advance, leaving enough time for proper editing and refinement of their papers, and so forth but it is not the norm. They are procrastinators. It is not personal; it’s typical.

Maybe your coworkers meant to RSVP but forgot because they were too busy. Some of them may not have been courteous enough to reply to your RSVP. Others are undoubtedly procrastinators. The main issue is not necessarily the behavior of your coworkers, but your emotional reaction to it. Rather than be disappointed, adjust your expectations. Avoid taking it personally. They have the right to live their life their own way, just as you do. Respect that right. They will fail or prosper based on the choices they make. Do what you can to help but back off completely when you recognize that your help is not wanted.

It may be that you have yet to find the right friend or group of friends. You may be searching for friends in all of the wrong places. But you should not give up. It takes time to develop quality friendships. Good relationships require a great deal of energy. Expand your search for friends beyond those only in your spatial proximity. I hope this helps, if only in some small way. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle