Relational Problems Aren't Procedural Problems

Recently, I was complaining that someone wasn’t listening to me when I tried to explain a problem that had come up in a project.

The person I was complaining to (who was not the person I was complaining about) actually gave me some good advice.

Unfortunately, I mostly, at the time, didn’t listen to him.

His advice was to simply do the thing that needed to be done, whether anyone listened to me about the problem or not. That wasn’t his wording, but it was the essence of what he was suggesting that I should do.

I tried writing an email three different times, and then deleted it.  I realized on my third attempt that the email wasn’t really about moving the work along or keeping people in the loop. Those were just the justifications I kept coming up with for it.

I asked myself “Is there an actual problem here that you need this person to solve?”

The problem I was trying to solve with the email was that I didn’t feel heard.

Instead of going for draft four, I decided to just do the thing that needed to be done and stop worrying whether anyone was listening.

Relational problems and communication problems are actual problems, and they do need to be dealt with at some point.

But I was getting confused and thinking a relational communication problem (“this person isn’t listening to me”) was a procedural problem (“there’s a hiccup in what needs to be done next”).

It wasn’t.

I knew (or was capable of figuring out) what needed to happen next to move the work along. I had the authority to move the work along based on my decision as to what to do next.

My friend was right. The best course of action was simply to do what needed to be done.

My difficulty in telling the difference is largely a function of my personality type.  Both INFPs and enneagram 4s have a hard time untangling feeling from doing. But it’s still my responsibility to recognize that wobble in my perspective, and course-correct for it.


  1. ·

    I fall into the same trap sometimes. I’m getting better at just doing the work that needs to be done rather than trying to explain what I’m doing up front.

  2. KatFrench

    Yeah. As nice as it’d be to feel like you’re educating and working things out, sometimes you can really only pull off the latter.


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