Side Step The Drama.
It’s been a minute since I’ve posted on the blog because I’ve been super focused on clients as of late and, unfortunately, writing and creativity in general have taken a bit of a back seat. That’s the thing with writing for me - it’s typically the first thing to go when stuff get's busy. But, alas, I’m taking some time to write to you on this gloomy Saturday morning before I get started power cleaning my house for an open house tomorrow! I guess you could say I’m procrastinating, but I’m fine with it if it means connecting with my people. xo!
Something that’s been on my mind these past few weeks is the idea of cutting through heavy emotional conflict with clarity so that the outcome is more desirable for both parties involved and also so that everyone has less stress overall. How does one do this though when emotions are high? It can feel almost impossible to keep a clear head. Maybe it’s 20 years in customer service & management positions or maybe it’s my own journey with ALL THE FEELS, but I’ve learned a few little tips that I think can help you. They take a helluva lot of practice, but they are totally worth the effort over time.
Many moons ago I was a doula and attending lots of wonderful women when they were giving birth. It was crucial that I was calm, collected, and at peace while I was with them because the journey of giving birth can be a wild ride of emotion. These women were relying on me to be their rock while they went up, down, in, out, and every which way over the course of 24 hours as they delivered their new baby. Birth, for most women, is the most powerful, overwhelming, and life-changing journey they will ever take. To support someone in that journey is an incredible honor and also requires fortitude and resilience. You can’t FEEL the pain when you are witnessing the pain or you are not capable of being the best support you can be. You have to be able to stand strong within it and maintain your clarity.
Here are my tips in no particular order:
Don’t meet the problem/emotion at the level it’s presented with. Side step. Act in the opposite spirit. If it’s high anger, activate love. If it’s high stress/anxiety/panic, activate peace. If it’s intense sadness, activate joy. This is not to disqualify or dismiss the emotion presented to you by the other person. It’s to be able to operate from a place of greater clarity and not get stuck in the thick of what the other person is experiencing. It’s a really healthy part of having boundaries actually and it allows you the fortitude to be with people in all kinds of emotional states and not be taken under by the waves yourself. You can think of it as being the strong swimmer with the flotation device to offer the person who is struggling to stay afloat. My favorite of The Four Agreements is, “Don’t take anything personally.” It’s NEVER about you. It’s ALWAYS about them. That projection can feel like an attack at times, but it’s important to behave as though you’re outside of it all, looking in, witnessing what’s occurring, rather than entering the ring and duking it out. Another person’s anger is not yours. Their stress is not yours. You are you and I am me and we can hold hands but separate we shall remain. Ya know what I’m sayin’???
If possible, WAIT before responding. When someone is upset with you, it’s usually best to pause before offering a response. It gives you time to allow your own emotions to rise and then fall and it typically leaves you with a gentler perspective that you can respond from. It’s the old, “Leave the room and take a deep breath” trick rather than jumping into the chaos with both feet. Write the email you really want to write and then leave it in your draft folder. Call you friend and tell her how you feel and not the person with whom you feel it toward. Not yet. Wait. Wait for clarity before you respond. The same is true if you feel upset yourself and want to share that with someone. You should be free to share however you feel with the people around you. That’s healthy. That’s totally o.k. - even if what you feel is one of the less socially acceptable emotions like “totally pissed off'“. Having said that, HOW you share your feelings is really important and 100% within your control. You can choose to lash out aggressively, operate passive aggressively, ignore the issue and push it down, or pause and deliver your message with directness but held up by love. In fact, who you are in these situations says a ton about you. It’s easy to be nice and “chill” and happy when life is good and when you feel great and when people are doing what you want them to do. It’s really, really, difficult and the practice of a fucking warrior princess to operate with love and generosity even when you’re disappointed, hurt, angry, or stressed.
Don’t take on the thing the other person is trying to give you. You do have a choice in this. When someone hands you, “YOU’RE A HORRIBLE PERSON!” you don’t have to accept that. They feel that; sure, but is it true? Is it objectively true? Other people’s feeling are not an automatic reflection of the truth. We all get that, right? Feelings are incredibly complex and volatile. Sometimes someone can say something to you that they believe whole-heartedly in one moment and then they can actually feel 100% the opposite the next morning. This is why we can’t take it all as “truth” and then internalize it. You can get great at these boundaries by always asking yourself, “Is that true?” and then coming up with 3 reasons why it’s NOT true to prove that, of course, it’s not objective truth. Sometimes your brain needs proof to believe what you’re presenting, so if a person is presenting you with, “You suck” and giving you evidence that supports this claim, then you may need to look for evidence that you don’t suck and take a few minutes to think it through in a very tangible way with concrete examples. I highly recommend a book called, “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie for a deeper exploration of questioning your thoughts. One gentle reminder here: this work is not to be used as a tool to avoid personal responsibility. When you have operated unkindly or done something wrong, it’s important to get back into integrity by admitting your mistakes, apologizing, and making it right. It’s no ok to go through life saying, “Well, those are your thoughts, but I don’t believe them” as you continue to skip down the sidewalk acting like an asshole. Not taking on other’s negative perceptions of you is for the purpose of not allowing it to take you down or block you from moving forward. It’s NOT for the purpose of ignoring feedback and healthy criticism as it comes your way. Does that make sense?
When someone is repeatedly unkind or inconsiderate in their interactions with you over time and you begin to witness a pattern of behavior, then it’s crucial that you set up a clear boundary. I have sometimes said to people, “That is not ok. I don’t allow people to talk to me that way.” That may sound very abrupt, but it was important in that moment to halt a very negative interaction as it was taking place. I think it was Oprah who said, “You teach people how to treat you but what you allow” and also, another favorite gem, “We accept the love we feel we deserve”. If it wasn’t Oprah then it was someone else who knows what’s up. I believe I deserve great love and that I’m worthy of that. I also don’t allow certain behaviors in my orbit because it teaches people that I think it’s o.k. - and I don’t think it’s o.k. I don’t think it’s o.k. to yell. I don’t think it’s o.k. to speak down to people. Directly, yes. Candidly, of course. Down to, NO. I don’t think it’s o.k. to use harsh language in a fight. I don’t think it’s o.k. to bully. I don’t think it’s o.k. to take advantage of people’s goodwill. You likely have your own list but it’s important to know when the time comes where you have to say, “Enough. I’m going to exit this situation now. I wish you the best but this is not healthy for me.” Yea; it takes guts, but you’ve got guts. I know you do.
Don’t let it linger. It’s easy to get caught up in a doom loop of regret, guilt, and shame when you have a negative interaction with another human. Did I do the right things? Was there more I could have done? I think it’s healthy to ask yourself those questions. It’s a practice of personal development as we seek to get better and do better in order to grow. What we don’t want is for it to hang on for dear life and keep us from being in the moment. What’s gone is gone and it only lives on in your mind. You have the choice, at any moment, to press forward and not feed the memory. Sure, it may pop up without your consent, but what we feed grows. Don’t feed it! Don’t give it endless reflection and talk about it over and over and allow it to take a hold in your present.
Communication is tough. We aren’t born knowing how to do it. It’s something we often struggle through for many years before we figure out what works and what doesn’t and begin to evolve in how we approach things. It’s an endless work in progress and the good news is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re in it together.
Happy Saturday, Loves.