Testing the Waters

dip_toe_in_waterOne of the easiest ways to do anything or get immediate feedback in life is to test the waters. This means in very small increments, that you try something and see what the results of the experiment are – sort of like a scientist. You do an experiment, get the feedback, then try another experiment, get the feedback, and rinse and repeat. After a few tries, you probably have a good amount of data to tell you something.

Lean Into It

The lean into it approach is useful when you know a situation requires a little bit of care and caution. Here’s 3 situations where just testing the waters will give you enough feedback to understand a situation pretty well.

Talking to Someone

When talking to most people around you, so long as you are a reasonable person and don’t show any kind of neediness, insecurity, or say anything offensive, most people will respond to you. So for usual day-to-day interactions, don’t think too hard about how you communicate with people – just be yourself, be kind, and respect other people.

But there may be situations where you are reaching out to someone where you’re not sure what they are thinking. You just need to dip your toe in the water a little and see if anything happens. But don’t do it just because you want to experiment. If you’re unsure about reaching out to someone, it’s an easy question to answer – don’t do it unless you feel confident and secure with yourself. Otherwise you should wait.

Once you talk to or reach out to that person, see if you get a response back. If you did, great. But it might mean they are just being nice to you only, but aren’t terribly interesting in talking. If you get no response, wait a while and try once more, but if there is no response after that, stop as there is probably no more point in trying.

Learn to give people their own space and distance. I know I appreciate this when people give it to me. It gives me time to think and clear my head. Just pay attention to what people are saying. Most people aren’t going to be direct with you such that unless you are REALLY pushy, most people won’t say, “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk to you.”

Just read the words and use your gut to feel if someone is hot or cold toward you. Keep your interactions very light and casual and above all, don’t interact if you feel any kind of insecurity or neediness – you’ll say and do something you probably will regret. If you find that someone is reaching out to you to talk and is fairly upbeat, then you know the communication lines are open and you should feel free to talk – but don’t smother the person.

Asking for Something Important

You might want to ask for a promotion or a raise. The best way to do this is to first make sure you are doing some amazing things that are getting noticed and then very calmly ask the question, “Do you think it’s possible for me to get to here?” Or “I think this would be really helpful for me, what do you think?”

The key is to not ask directly or else you might appear needy. Make sure you are doing what you should be doing first and then calmly ask the question. See what the response is and test the situation. If there is an avoidance of the question, chances are you’ll need to wait or might not get what you are looking for.

Stretching Yourself to Overcome Fears

Fear is one of the great fascinations of my life. I have a fear of vomiting, I have a fear of heights. I have a fear of being stuck in an MRI tube and not being able to get out. I have many fears. I can’t overcome these in one day by trying to brute force my way through them. It’s an ongoing process that requires leaning into small things each day.

To overcome my MRI fear, I don’t turn down MRI opportunities. I instead opt for an OPEN MRI machine where I can see out the sides. I close my eyes and meditate, get a warm blanket, and ask for calm music to be played. In this sense, I can do MRIs now!

My fear of heights and vomiting are different beasts. I’m not sure I can test the waters with vomiting. It’s an all or none situation. I could simply drink some Ipecac Syrup ala the Family Guy and get the deed over with. But I don’t like that idea.

Instead, I picture myself being sick and how I’d handle it. If I can come to an acceptance that vomiting is OK, then I might just do a video of me drinking some Ipecac Syrup and vomiting just to show I’m overcoming my fear!

For my fear of heights, I might try just going up 5 feet in the air first. Then 10 feet. I might try some simple activities like walking or carrying something. If I can overcome my fear at 10 feet, then 15 to 20 might not be so bad. But maybe at 10 feet, it’s just too much. I will have learned this through the iterative approach testing the waters.

Just Test the Waters

Just test the waters to see if it is warm. If not, you’ve probably gone too far and need to back off. And that’s OK, that’s the purpose of doing an iterative approach where you never do too much at once.

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