May 4, 2018
Relationships are fulfilling and exhausting! When we see eye to eye we usually get along better. But we don’t always see things the same way. How do we navigate the space of different views, different experiences? I think we have to be willing to accept that the process will be messy.
I’m in a space like that right now. My siblings and I own a business my father gave to us years before he died. Prior to us being involved, it was just his. He made all the decisions. Now, the task of making decisions falls on the shoulders of me, four of my siblings and our children. We are strong, independent people. We have different ideas of what success looks like. We have different ideas of how to grow and when to grow. It’s unbelievably challenging navigating these waters.
I see life through my filter. They see life through their individual filters. We are currently in a state of “my filter or experience is not like yours”. Our rough edges are showing. Harsh words have been spoken. Hard feelings are on the surface. Where do we go from here?
We must step back and listen to each other. We must understand where each person is coming from and why each has the view they have. It can’t stop there. We must own our part in why the discord exists and ask ourselves, “What am I doing that is contributing to the dissonance?”
This doesn’t mean I give up on my view of the situation but it does mean that I not hold so tightly to my view that I “make” others accept it as the only possible view. I am a work in progress on this one. In the end, we are not talking about literal life and death. The consequences could, in a worst case scenario, mean the end of our family business. It’s a business. Businesses come and go just as empires rise and fall.
How does this apply to you and your life? Are you in a disagreement with someone?
- Step back, give time and space to see the other person’s point of view.
- Repeat back what you are hearing the other person saying, as this may bring some clarity. Sometimes what we think the other person’s view is and what they actually mean are different. Avoid assumptions by asking questions.
- Be honest about your experience without bringing in shame, blame or criticism.
- Work toward solutions that are a win for all concerned, if possible. I’m actually a fan of the belief that if a win/win cannot be found, no decision is the best decision. Table the issue and come back to it after you have had a chance to process as well as get neutral input.
In the end, I think relationship should trump a decision. Life is short. Is anything really worth sacrificing relationship? We think so sometimes, but I believe nothing is more valuable than healthy, human connection.
Personally, I’m still in process on all of this. It’s much easier to say than do. 🙂
(This is a rewrite of a previous post from November 2014.)
It’s the holiday season! Are you ready to be around people you find challenging? You know, the ones who say things and suddenly you no longer feel very good about yourself. Perhaps drama trails around them like Pigpen’s dirt cloud. Approaching these situations with understanding and compassion can help.
To begin, recognize you are never very far from hurting others. This awareness generally helps with the next valuable action to deal with dysfunction: seeking to understand. Understanding where someone might be coming from, what he might be thinking or feeling, helps us develop compassion for him. Understanding does not require that you agree.
Understanding, and its closely linked cousin, compassion can dramatically change any dysfunctional system, at the very least for you. As you put on understanding and compassion, you will notice you are not so negatively affected by the dysfunction. You more easily notice the dysfunctional barbs, recognize them as a product of the other person’s pain, process the feeling, and realize, “This is not about me.” Once you have metabolized your own reaction, you can then shift your focus onto at least being kind to this person.
I frequently talk about Viktor Frankl with my clients. He survived Nazi concentration camps from 1942-1945. His freedom came when his camp was liberated at the end of World War II. A Psychiatrist, he was intrigued by the motivations and actions of himself, fellow prisoners and guards in this unplanned and unwanted research experiment. After the war, he turned his discovery of the power human beings possess to survive horrific experiences into a therapeutic method: Logotherapy.
In the most unlikely of places, Dr. Frankl made a decision to be the best prisoner he could be. He didn’t execute this perfectly as he admits in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning but his intention gave him purpose and the will to survive. He reasoned if he was able to do this in a concentration camp, then anyone can. As human beings, we have the ability to choose our thoughts, words, actions and attitudes.
My circumstances are not even remotely as challenging as Dr. Frankl’s. Still, I recognize I have the same choices. In simple trivial situations like driving behind a slow vehicle I can get upset about it or relax, recognizing I have no power over the driver. I only have power over myself. I know that unhealthy, illegal and unwise decisions will have a negative impact on me and potentially others so I choose to breathe, be calm, and recognize that my impatience is likely my own responsibility for not leaving enough time for the inevitable slow driver, accident or heavy traffic.
The same goes for the more painful situations in my life. It’s important to note, this doesn’t mean I pretend to be fine. Oh, no! We must be real about the emotions we have in all situations whether trivial or intense. Acknowledge your emotions, understand why you feel what you do, validate your emotions then have a conversation with yourself about what to do. I go into this process in greater length here and here.
Remember, you have the power to decide what you think, feel, say and do in all situations. No one decides that for you.
“The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. Making the world a better place can’t depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.” ~ Kent M. Keith, author of Anyway – The Paradoxical Commandments
The Paradoxical Commandments by Keith M. Kent:
- People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
- If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
- If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
- The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
- Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
- The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
- People favor underdogs but follow top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
- What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
- People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
- Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
I resonate with Kent Keith’s ideas. Our job is to leave a positive mark on this world through our actions and words. Our ripples may be small or large. The size isn’t the point. The healthiest approach is to detach from the outcome or reach of the good we do and do good anyway! 🙂
I laugh when the very thing I write about catches me and spits me out! We planned a once in a lifetime trip for my husband’s mother. She is Norwegian but has never set foot on the soil of Norway…or anywhere outside of the United States. My husband had been promising her he’d take her there someday. At 81 someday needed to happen soon! So we decided to take the plunge this summer. The itinerary is planned, tickets purchased and passports are ready to go! Then, the unplanned jumped out and smacked us. My father-in-law’s health plummeted and my mother-in-law needs to stay with him. Go figure!
At first I was understanding. Then this nasty poison crept in. I realized we planned this whole trip for her! What!? You mean we’re spending all this money and taking time away from work (which for me with a private practice means zero income) and she isn’t even going? What?! Visualize my red face, temper rising, anger beginning to leak out all over the place!!!
In church a woman prayed, among other things, to speak blessings instead of cursings…healthy conviction began sinking in…well, after I had a little fit! Now I am amazed at my behavior. Really, Karen? You are incredibly self-centered sometimes. I must give myself grace as I always tell my clients and yet, I do hope that one day I can be more concerned about others than myself. Oh, and roll with the unpredictable a little earlier in the process.
I’ve done this…I was the one who broke a lot of people’s trust. This visual is seared into my brain. At times it creeps in and fills me with all kinds of horrible memories and a painful churning in my stomach. I have learned over time to remember that I am forgiven and free. I never see my past actions as acceptable, but I am acceptable. Although some people may never trust me again, and I understand why, those who know me now, see me not as my past but as my present.
What about you? Are you the one who was hurt by another who broke your trust or were you the one who did the breaking? No matter how this quote hits you and the emotions it stirs up, you have the power to be free.