A bride recently informed me that she was down a bridesmaid. One of her friends, a bridesmaid, didn’t make the bridal shower and didn’t tell her beforehand. The bride explained to her friend that since she didn’t have her back, there was no point in having her remain in the wedding party.
This bride is not a Bridezilla––she’s anything but. She felt her decision was the honest thing to do and I was impressed at how levelheaded and assertive she was. I wish, though, she had found out why her friend has been consistently flaking on her bridesmaid’s duties. She still doesn’t know.
Here’s the thing. . .often times, what is most obvious is not most true. While the bridesmaid didn’t have the bride’s back, the bride dismissed her without ever finding out what was going on. For the sake of the friendship, it’s important to know––was she a thoughtless flake or was something else going on?
Yes, it’s true that people can say and do some really, really strange and downright irritating things to an engaged couple. Perhaps you’ve noticed?!
If a friend or family member is acting in ways that confuse and/or frustrate you, rather than presuming they don’t care, take the time to do something that’s known as PERCEPTION CHECKING.
The checking has four steps:
1. Ask your friend for some time to talk––in person if possible. If not, then by phone (or Skype). Don’t try this via email or text.
2. Describe for them the pattern of behavior that’s confusing you––no judgments or interpretations––just the facts. For instance, they weren’t able to go with you when you picked out your dress, they haven’t helped with the shower, etc.
3. Offer TWO possible interpretations for why this pattern is happening, i.e.––I don’t know if work has been busy for you and you haven’t been able to get away or if I’ve done something to hurt you.
4. Then ask them to clarify: I’m confused and I want to make sure that you do have my back, so what’s going on?
If they say “nothing,” then repeat the steps, stating the pattern, offering other possible interpretations, that you need their support, and that if they’re not able to give it that’s okay. You just want clarity.
These four steps will increase the chances that your friend or family member will not become defensive and instead engage you in open conversation.
If they do resist, become defensive, or get “weird,” then you can decide to disinvite them to you wedding or from being part of your wedding party. This is not punishment; rather it’s an honest act of honoring you and your partner and your mutual sanity!
Often times we’re not aware of how our behavior is affecting someone––even a close friend. Perception checking is a way of keeping a clear head in a time when things can get very unclear.