“I’ll call you right back.”
He always says this. And I don’t want to be an ‘always’ person, who says someone does something ‘all the time’ when really they don’t. When I’m really the one who is exaggerating.
But in the case of my friend Weston, always is always.
Of our last twenty phone calls, Weston has encountered a problem, an issue, a distraction during our phone call. He pauses and then says he will call me right back.
And on every occasion, he hasn’t called back. Weeks pass before either one of us starts a new conversation. And every time I wait for his apology for not getting back to me, which never comes.
So why does Weston make a promise he can’t keep? Why does he promise to call when he has no intention of actually doing so?
I have some theories.
It’s Just An Excuse
I’ve wondered if Weston struggles with the idea of hanging up on someone. That he has an aversion to saying goodbye. To put finality to a conversation could be seen to be rude, or aversive, so he uses any excuse to end the conversation.
It’s hard to be angry at someone if there is a reason to leave the conversation. It’s impossible to blame him if something else is to blame.
Though I don’t see the need to fabricate a reason to end a phone call, some do. When I go to hang up on my dear, sweet grandmother, she always berates me. ‘You don’t have time for me’, she says, after spending an hour on the phone with her.
Sometimes I feel myself dancing around a lie to get out of the phone call with her, simply to save myself from the ensuing guilt trip.
Yet I try to remember every phone call with the people I know won’t end like this.
Weston is a busy man, I can’t deny this. He has many priorities he’s juggling, and commitments to work, family and friends that keep him extremely busy.
I wonder how often he writes down a to-do list or keeps a diary. If he notes down his needs or wants, or to follow up with me. I remain curious if he schedules in the promises that he makes.
I know his distractions, his reasons for ending the phone call, can be genuine. I can hear the calamity in the background before he ends the call. As the chaos around him escalates, I can only assume the promise made to me is the least of his concerns.
‘Organisation’ is such a fundamental part of adult functioning.
We’re taught that it’s essential we master this skill, so we can effectively balance all that life throws at us. Despite all our training and education from years of schooling, some aren’t able to master simple organisation.
Or when it comes to returning phone calls, they simply don’t care for it.
In this strange way, Weston controls our communication.
He’s the one, primarily, to end the phone call abruptly and keeping me waiting on him. It takes the position of control out of my hands and into his.
I have to wait for him. He decides when he wants to call me. I don’t have a choice in the time, I simply have to abide by his decisions. Weston possesses all of the flexibility.
Whether this is his intention or not, this is a direct result of his behaviour. He dictates our communication and on his terms. He decides when he is emotionally and physically available for us to have a phone call.
Weston may not be consciously choosing to be controlling. As I friend I would like to think he isn’t abusing our friendship in this manner.
But if he finds our conversations difficult, frustrating, intolerable at times, this may be his only coping mechanism. One that he has fallen into a routine of even if his views of me, or others, has changed.
I Can’t Ignore The Obvious
In all of my analysis of Weston’s behaviour, it’s impossible to ignore the conclusion that Weston makes promises he has no intention of keeping.
He says things to appease the people in his life, but he has no intention of sticking to it. What he is, at his core, a liar about his behaviour.
It’s not irrational to think this is the only thing he lies about. But I can’t be conclusive either. Regardless of excuses or logical reasoning, it isn’t possible to label Weston’s behaviour with anything else.
Do People Know What They Are Doing?
I constantly question whether Weston knows that he does this. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, in passing through conversations, but he pretends to not remember the promise. ‘Is this a red flag?’ I ask myself. Or is this really his honesty?
I often wonder if he thinks about the questions and answers. All of the questions we still had for each other but never got to ask. All of the answers to questions we asked during our conversation but never got to because he cut it off.
Does he think about what he doesn’t know?
I know I’m not alone. Many of my friends are still waiting for his call right now. Some of us have discussed a phone call intervention, where we confront his frustrating promises. It’s not an exclusive behaviour reserved for just one person. The fundamental lying is shared with the masses.
But I don’t take solace that I’m the only one. It doesn’t appease my feelings.
Do People Understand Their Actions?
We all want that intervention, but keep circling around the same thought pattern. ‘Is it really that bad?’ It’s just a phone call, right?
It isn’t just about returning a call. Though on the surface it may seem like a harmless forgetfulness that others ‘should’ overlook. It’s not like he’s an abusive, torturous criminal. But there is something criminal about his actions.
His perpetual habit of promising to return calls is creating a universal frustration towards him. His underdelivering behaviour means we can’t trust him, we can’t rely on him, and we can’t take him for his word. And when you can’t trust someone with one part of their behaviour, the distrust begins to bleed over everything else.
There will come a day when Weston will want the trust of the people around him. And perhaps he won’t be taken as seriously as he hopes and he will wonder why.
But for now, the people around us will continue to take a cautious approach. We will take his promises with a grain of salt.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships through fictional-reality. The anecdotes might not always be true, but the lessons learned sure are!
Previously published on medium
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