These are the ones we usually put off the longest and deliberate the most. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or piss anyone off. We don’t want to rock the boat or cause angst or friction. In the short run, it seems much simpler to just allow things to continue as they have been and hope that whatever is causing US the inner angst or friction will just somehow miraculously subside or blow over. But the familiar question then is… “How’s that working for you?”
February 8, 2013
Many times, we’re put in uncomfortable positions which merit some type of deliberate or thoughtful action because such action is needed to keep from perpetually finding ourselves from being put in those positions. Yeah, I know that sounded like one big circle but that’s because that’s exactly what it is. The cycle continues to make its turns around irritation, frustration, discontent, anger–all of which are “bad” emotions and we’re told to “walk it off” and let ourselves cool down before saying or doing anything that we’ll later regret…only to later TRULY realize that the we’ve already done the thing that we regret most: nothing. We’ve put our heads in the sand once again, to let ourselves “cool off”…and when we finally figure out how to articulate in a less passionate manner, it feels inappropriate to bring up such an old matter that doesn’t even seem relevant anymore. Until it happens again…and it ALWAYS does. Only this time, it may be in a different scenario with different parties involved so we’re starting all over again.
For the most part, our western society has been programmed to believe that being polite and gentle is better than authentically expressing disapproval or disagreement. It paints those who dare to speak to or about an injustice or wrongdoing as troublemakers and confrontational or even combative and inappropriate. This applies to relationships across the board–on the job, in our communities, and at home. And then we wonder why there are so many misunderstandings or continued infractions against one another. When it all points to one of two “most likely” culprits: 1) the inability or refusal to shut up and really listen without assumption, or 2) not actually voicing or expressing a concern in the first place.
Now I’m not suggesting that everybody just “go off” and say anything and everything that comes to mind. But I am suggesting that it’s important that we are honest in our own assessments of situations and learn to go to the appropriate person and call a spade a spade. [Keep in mind the word “assessment” and that it’s not the same as “assumption”. AND the element of going to the appropriate person. (Bitching about something to someone who has NOTHING to do with your concern is just that…bitching. Nothing gets resolved, and it’s easy to cower there under the illusion of having “gotten it out”.)] But when we can reasonably draw a conclusion, that’s the best time to act on what we know. Because the longer we deliberate after that conclusion has been drawn, the more OUR motives and intentions are subject to being questioned.
Is it easy to do this? Depends on how much practice we’ve had. If you’re a person who rarely holds your tongue, people have probably grown immune to your yapping and don’t really hear you. If you’re a person who takes a mousy approach, YOU don’t even appear to believe you so why would anyone else listen? Balance–no, ACCURACY is key. Yapping about what “might” have happened, or “should” have happened, or “needs to” happen with no evidence of imminent harm is just as ineffective as taking the “it’s okay, but maybe…” approach. Can you imagine if “those unruly slaves” such as Harriet Tubman had just done what they were told and kept their head down and kept quiet? It was said that she packed heat and threatened other slaves who wanted to change their minds and turn around and go back. Kinda reminds me of the airplane scene in Jerry Maguire when Cuba Gooding, Jr’s character declared to the movie’s name sake that even if he had to “ride [his] ass like Zoro”, he was gonna “show [him] the money”. In other words, there was no turning back.
Oftentimes these moments of truth present themselves to us, giving us an opportunity to step up or get beat back into the submission of a status quo which has persisted for far too long. And no it doesn’t have to have gone on for years or generations… How long do we have to have an infection before we go to the doctor to get it treated? As soon as we’re aware of the symptoms, right? Similarly, when we can identify the cause of unrest or frustration, THEN is the time to address it. The symptoms show up to help us identify that a larger or more pressing matter exists, much like the siren on an emergency vehicle sounds to let us know that it’s approaching and we need to respond appropriately.
And as liberating as this may sound, it’s important to recognize that liberty comes at a cost. Remember, as a society that generally rebukes complaining, not everyone will support such expression. In fact, many will be offended or become personally defensive…especially if the matter involves them. But I maintain that the more accurate the confrontation, the more readily it will be received. [Also note that “confrontation” does NOT have to be combative, accusatory, or offensive. Accuracy and truth in delivery is most vital, rather than dramatic inflation of facts, or language which doesn’t leave room for the other person to actually dialogue.] When going for effectiveness, the ego (which pretty much insists that the other person know just HOW wrong they are/were) needs to be checked…but not your backbone. It is entirely possible for a hard message to be delivered without belittling or berating the person being confronted; however, depending on how hard that truth is, they may still be offended…and that is not your issue. When such a message is delivered from a pure place of genuineness and authenticity, there is no need to “feel bad” about how they choose to receive the message.
Nevertheless, the opportunities will be presented to make a decision. And there are no guaranteed outcomes, but the one thing that is guaranteed is that we will face that challenge again if we don’t adequately manage it the first time. Are you ready to step up, or will you risk being shot in the back as you run from it…?