letter
sometimes you just have to ask

I've been thinking lately about how, in our personal relationships, choices don't always reflect desires. This has been on my mind since my most recent visit to Home Depot. 

 

I hate Home Depot. It’s the worst. Some employees seem to think they can convince me to buy anything. Others don’t seem to care if I buy at all. 

 

Once, I asked an employee at Home Depot where the Bondo was. He directed me to the opposite side of the store. I trekked the mile over and looked where he told me to look. No Bondo. I asked another employee at that location where the Bondo was. He said he didn’t know. Then a third employee, a woman, walked out of a back office (I assumed she was a manager). “I overheard you asking where the Bondo was,” she said. Then she directed me back to where I originally was when I asked the first guy where to go. And right there, right where I had originally been standing, was the Bondo.  

 

I hate Home Depot. As soon as a better option pops up, I'm shopping there. 

 

Home Depot will never know how I feel because they don't ask. I wish Home Depot would ask me what was wrong. And if I told them, I wish they'd listen and fix it. But they can't bother training their employees, so I figure they won't address my concerns.

 

My relationship with Home Depot is strained, even though I'm giving them my hard-earned money. 

 

Relationships with people aren't much different. People stay with friends or romantic partners even when they aren’t happy. Sometimes they stay because they don’t think they have better options. Sometimes they are carried along by inertia. Either way, it's good to remember that just because someone remains in your life doesn't mean they're satisfied with you.

 

Choices don't always reflect desires.

 

I’ve never had a friend or romantic partner ask me point blank: “How I am working out for you? Do I make your life easier? Make you happier? Is there anything I can do to improve?” Maybe people should do that. Maybe we should all seek out that info. If we don't, we could lose something precious and be blindsided in the process. 

 

We don't ask, even though we know we should, because our biases get in the way. People are prone to believing that what they see is all there is to see. Behavioral economists have recognized this as a pretty universal human trait; it's not automatic for us to consider that there's more to the story. They're sticking around. What else is there to know?

 

Only when things don’t go our way do we suddenly want to know the whole truth. Only then do we need to have a complete and thorough download of information - because knowing why things have fallen apart can give us a sense of control. 

 

I wonder what it would take for people to want to learn what's going on before things turn to crap. You know, when they're still able to make choices that nurture the relationship.

 

Maybe all it takes is making a conscious choice to ask. 

 

So to all my friends out there... How am I doing? Do I make your life better? Can I do anything to improve? Let me know. If I want to keep you, I'll make it right. 

 

If I don't make things better, then by all means find a better option. There is no decent alternative to Home Depot in my neighborhood, but there are plenty of people out there happy to make new friends or start new relationships, and a few of them aren't half bad.

 

In fact, some of them, if you need Bondo, will actually escort you right to it. 

 

That is all.

To learn more about the behavioral science concept of  WYSIATI (What You See Is All There Is), and how it can cause you trouble, see this video.

 

Some quotes to think about and share:

 

“You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like the defense on a football field, putting all focus on evading only one defender is asking to be blindsided.” ― Criss Jami

 

“Sooner or later, we all face what we’ve done.” – The character Edgar Reade, from the TV action series Blindspot.

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