The Gift of An Out
It’s always uncomfortable when someone calls you out on your stuff, but have you ever met a person who has a way of getting a point across without making you feel small? Who’s calm and centered amidst a full-blown rant, seemingly unaffected when being bombarded by another out of control human? Who has the courage to speak their truth without raising their voice?
It’s extraordinary. And effective. Don’t you have a better chance of hearing what needs to be said when you aren’t getting attacked by a litany of foul mouthed, ill-intended, condescending insults?
In my life long endeavor to be a little better today than I have been in days prior, I’ve made an effort to watch people who are skilled communicators, even asked them for tips when appropriate. The goal being, to have a better understanding of myself and be comfortable and balanced regardless of circumstance. Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far.
First and foremost, be kind. Definite. Clear and specific. Gruff if necessary. Use humor, if possible. (This is a tough one; one that takes a lot of practice.) Resist emotional finger pointing. Eliminate the word “I” or “me” from heated confrontations. (There will be time to hash out how this effects you, when cooler heads prevail.) Say whats going on–the facts only, and then focus on what you want to happen going forward. Here are a few examples I’ve been taught that worked famously during my house remodel.
If you come across someone in the middle of an inappropriate outburst, relax your shoulders, open your chest and wait for them to get it all out. Imagine your voice, calm and sincere and then ask, “Do you feel better?” Think of it as giving a spinning being a moment to stop and catch their breath. After this short one-liner, I typically get a wide-eyed stare. I relax and allow a couple of minutes to pass. Most times, one of two things happens. Either I get a “Yes, I do feel better,” followed by much more rational and productive conversation. Or, a bunched up face as they look off into space and when they make eye contact again, they are smiling, sometimes even laughing.
If you’re ever charged by another, flush-faced,fists clenched and shouting, if you have even a second’s notice, you might try this. “Blah-blah-blah-blah,” the Tasmanian Devil spews and raises a stiff finger in the vicinity of your face. At your side, they continue on with another round of ‘how you have done something to provoke them.’ Once they run out of air and pause to suck a breath, I think the word “balance”, then look them in the eye and say “Gosh, darn it. I’m sorry, my mind reader is on the blink again.” The reaction–A deer in headlights expression, paired with a silence so still I can hear every cricket on the planet. Their Adam’s apple falls a notch, then more times than not, they move on without another word.
This is a job site favorite. A function I’m guessing of familiarity. A dynamic of having so many people together days on end. If an agitated person turns aggressive towards you, use your librarian tone (Again, tough at first) and utter, “I’m so sorry you’re uncomfortable, but can you please explain to me how I’m responsible for decisions you’ve made?” After they process what was said, I’m often faced with glassy eyes and quivering lips. Since now, I understand that this sort of behavior is a sign of severe pain, and confusion about how to handle it. With this in mind, I follow with the kindest voice I can muster in that moment. “I know,” I say. “I used to act like this too. But it doesn’t work, so now I do something different.” Even though these words are actually meant to soothe an angry person, every time I say them, my heart swells with such an unbelievable amount of compassion. Who knew?
When crossing paths with an out of balance person, remember every interaction is an exchange. Sometimes you have knowledge and experience another doesn’t and vice versa. So is it productive to shout back? Be punitive or condescending just because you have more information then your fellow human being? Think back to a time when you were where this person sits and likely acted similar, maybe even worse.
Go on, give it a shot. The old ways will still be there if you want to go back. What have you got to loose?
E.L. Chappel author of Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers/Risk
An out, not to be mistaken with off the hook. Share what you’ve learned in a way others can benefit and soar to the stars.
aka The Glamorous Wife