About a month ago, an old friend of mine posted pictures of his snowshoeing trip online. There was something in these photos that caught my eye, and it wasn't the powdery white snow I'm so very homesick for...
It was my bright red ski coat that went missing about a year ago, around the same time this friend of mine moved in with his fiancee. The same red ski coat I asked him about before I moved, as I seemed to have remembered leaving it in his apartment. The same red ski coat that he said he didn't have; the red ski coat that his fiancee was happily modeling in all of his photos. MY red ski coat.
(I wouldn't ordinarily be so quick to jump to conclusions, except that this is the same "friend" who told me my bike had been stolen. I later discovered he had sold it...)
Anyway, if I would have found these photos before October, our interaction would have gone something like this:
me: I see your fiancee is wearing my coat...can I have it back?
him: That's not your coat!
me: Well it's identical to mine, and it's kind of a unique coat. And it's too big for her!
him: It's not your coat, it's hers! I can't believe you're accusing me of stealing your coat!
me: You did steal my coat! It's even missing the same zipper as mine! Send it back to me! NOW!
Well, you get the idea.
However, in October, I attended a P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop, and I picked up on a few things. I decided to put my newly learned P.E.T. skills to the test. Our interaction went like this instead:
me: I see that the coat in your pictures is identical to the one that I'm missing. Any chance that that's the one I lost?
Al: That's not your coat. I can't believe what you're implying, that's ridiculous.
me: You feel like I'm accusing you of something.
Al: Yes! You basically just told me I stole your coat. Like I'm a thief or something. That's not your coat!
me: So you didn't take my coat. But, look, I really miss my coat and I'm going to have to pay a lot of money for a new one this year if I can't find mine, and that's really stressing me out.
Al: Ok, look, I'll take another look around through the house and my storage unit, ok? Just don't accuse me of stealing your stuff.
me: Alright, I'm sorry I accused you of stealing. I would really appreciate your looking for it again. Thank you.
Al: No problem. I'll let you know if I find it.
Last week, my coat arrived at my front door in perfect condition, with a hand-written apology and a note about how he didn't realize that I had missed the coat at all.
This was a tricky situation, and I'm sure I could have handled it better. But as I have been learning through experience, I-messages tend to work in the trickiest of situations...even if you start things off on the wrong foot.
All hail Active Listening and I-messages!!! :)