Expectations and Surprises: Decoding the Language of Confusion

A woman was sitting next to me in a coffee shop in deep conversation with someone over the phone. The discussion was animated, at least on her end. I couldn’t help but notice her expression because it, too, was very animated. First, there was shock: her eyes widened and she sat back abruptly. Then she looked like she was trying hard to figure something out. Finally she said to whoever she was talking to “I’m confused! I don’t know where to go with this.”

When I feel the way she looked, and end up feeling confused, it’s almost always because what I’m hearing isn’t in line with what I expect. It takes me by surprise – whatever it is – because I’m assuming something else. I might be assuming that my friend and I were clear about how we were going to do something together – something we’d planned for a year – like a trip to some exotic place – saved for and anticipated with relish. Then she goes ahead and invites a third person without first asking me. If that happened, I’d probably say something like “I’m confused. I don’t know where to go with this.”

In my world, we had a deal, and deals are sacred. But it seems that for my friend, deals aren’t so sacred. Or maybe, my friend doesn’t see our friendship in the same way I do. Or maybe something else.

I won’t know unless I bring it up and talk about it with her. Otherwise, I’ll feel hurt and confused. I’ll hypothesize and project, and the projections will get worse and worse.

Confusion can let you know that there’s an inner conflict that’s worth investigating.

Quote of the Week

Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky


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