Created: Tuesday, 07 October 2014 01:44
There's a saying in the twelve steps programs: "Codependents don't have relationships, they take hostages."
When someone I care about acts like a victim or a hostage when they can simply say no to a controlling dynamic or walk out the door, it makes me a little crazy. When they talk as if they need permission to be themselves, take care of themselves and so on, I want to shake them awake into positive action. I want to scream - "It's YOUR life, not theirs!"
That's when I remember the other saying from the 12 steps program: "Codependents don't have relationships, they have caseloads." I check my rescuer impulse.
There are times to say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean when you say it. I do that. Then I let people use my observations as they choose. After all, when I want to scream, "It's your life, not theirs" I need to remember... It's their life, not mine.
Of course there are times to intervene, and there are times when helping isn't codependent. That said, don't let yourself be taken hostage by trying to change someone who just isn't ready to set themselves free, and find a controlling other to be a convenient excuse. Also, don't turn your friendships into caseloads. There are professionals for that.
Created: Monday, 29 September 2014 15:48
You prepare for the bad times in the good times. That means when you're making good money, you save some for when you aren't. Among a lot of other things.
In SpeakStrong terms, it means you talk about how you're going to handle land mines before you hit them. Not IF you hit land mines, but WHEN. Any relationship that is dynamic and alive will hit land mines. Will you overlook them? Will you ignore them? Will you put on a happy face? Or do you agree that at times, the best way out is through? What might that look like?
If someone refuses to have that discussion upfront, you might reconsider letting them deeply into your life. When things are smooth, it's hard to imagine they won't always be. When they aren't, it helps to know that you have agreements that you are all in - that you won't play games, retaliate, go silent, etc. and that you will... what?... you tell me.
How do YOU handle it when you hit the land mines in the relationships that matter?
Created: Friday, 26 September 2014 14:49
I recently attended a meeting where everyone was required to use pencils because someone in the group is allergic to a chemical that pens emit. That woman is able to come to these meetings because the group is sensitive to her sensitivities.
Yesterday was a different experience. At the end of my Pilates session, the instructor handed me a wipe. She explained that no one wanted to exercise in other people's germs, and she wanted me to wipe down the equipment I had used. I took the wipe reflexively, commenting that I am more concerned about chemicals than germs. The trainer laughed and told me about a student who held the wipe up with disdain, displaying her acrylic nails. The trainer wasn't having it.
We need to be sensitive to others' sensitivities. My reactions are more food-based than chemical, and I don't think the congestion I woke with this morning was from handling Lysol. But some people suffer greatly from just a little chemical contact.
No, handling a chemical wipe doesn't send me to bed for a week, but I still don't like it. So how do I handle the trainer's policy and insensitivty with... sensitivity?
I shared the tale with Bob. He replied, "That's why I use witch hazel. Most of my clients are fine with commercial antiseptics, but for the few that aren't, the witch hazel works well."
I was delighted. I use witch hazel on my face as an astringent. I will show up to my next session with a tub of witch hazel wipes. No need to get teachy-preachy. Instead of going confrontational into the problem, I will show up with my own solution.
I will leave the tub with her for my future use, and as a gift for others who share my concerns about chemicals.
Created: Thursday, 25 September 2014 13:56
When "Abby's" interview ended badly and she declined my offer because I had made her uncomfortable, I wanted to speak with the gal who had referred her right away. Why? Well, I am human and I was feeling a bit wounded. However, I can honestly say that my major motivation was that I wanted her to be able to communicate some positive things about my impressions of Abby when they spoke. Our conversation was in no way an "Abby-bashing" session. It included quite a bit of sincere praise. I hoped some appreciation would slip in to her conversation with Abby.
While I don't claim to do any of it perfectly, when I search my heart I can say that I honestly have good intentions most of the time. The people in my inner circle trust that. I trust that in them. Yes, we collide at times, fumble in confusion and wound each other in some way or another. That basic trust is what makes it so doable. Without trust, everything needs explanation. Without trust, Speaking Strong becomes a tedious chore that doesn't make great relationships possible; it makes them impossible until the trust is built.
Honesty simplifies life. Purity of heart is what makes honesty workable. One of my friends often affirms this. When I or we struggle she will say, "I know your heart." I don't claim to have attained complete purity and I don't suggest that my inner circle has perfected it either. But we have enough purity that we can share the secrets of our souls with a sense of ease.
That is precious. I am grateful to everyone who honors me with that kind of trust. I am grateful to those who don't slam the door because they discover I'm human too and/or I triggered them somehow.
Some people say life is short, but I say life is long. I am also grateful to those who have slammed the door and then walked back through it for a do-over - a do-over that resulted in us being in each other's inner circles. Perhaps some day, Abby and I will find our ways into each other's inner circles, too.
Created: Wednesday, 24 September 2014 14:29
I've had a lot of conversations in the past months with people about their tendency to dominate conversations. Most have gone well - but the latest one didn't quite work out as I had hoped.
I get frustrated when people finish my sentences for me, interrupt and/or talk over me, often assuming they know what I am trying to say. (Trying is the operative word here since they don't let me finish.) Addressing it hasn't always been easy or fun, but, to the credit of the would-be-dominators, I am now able to enjoy the company of several people instead of being frustrated in their company or distancing myself. Occasionally I hear of someone else who experiences the dynamic that I have worked through with them.
Saturday was a different story.
"Abby" was interested and excited about doing work for me. She had everything I needed - the skills, the enthusiasm, the interest. Except there was one problem. When we spoke on the phone, she interrupted me several times, took the conversation in directions and details that didn't serve the point, and basically dominated the conversation.
There was no space for grace.
There were several things I intended to say that I didn't because Abby was doing a lot more talking than listening. I considered saying something about it on the phone, but decided to wait until we met.
When I got off the phone, I told my husband, "I will not have one more tangential person in my life." If it was going to work, Abby and I needed to find a better communication balance.
I mentioned the issue to the gal who referred Abby. Yes, she noted, sometimes when Abby called she would put the phone down and do other things and Abby didn't notice. In fact, she had just done that for an hour.
That wasn't going to work for me.
So I told Abby that we needed to work that out if we were going to be able to work together. Abby launched into a long and detailed explanation of what had happened the day we spoke that made her nervous and chatty. I felt that sinking feeling I get when I sense I'm being led down a rabbit hole. I told Abby those were the kind of details that I found distracting and off point. Abby seemed to understand, and after that, she only interrupted me once. Abby left all smiles and reportedly eager to start.
Two hours later I discovered a message on my answering machine. Abby wasn't going to be able to work for me after all. She was very reluctant to speak with me when I returned her call. She said I put out "uncomfortable energy" and she needed to be herself at work.
On reflection, I can think of ways I could have said it better. That's always true.
Am I disappointed? Yes - and I'm also relieved. If someone being herself means talking and not listening, this isn't the place for her. I'm sure she has people who love her. I also know pretending to listen like the woman who referred Abby just doesn't work for me. Abby had everything I was looking for on a skill level. Just not on a communication level.
Man, that girl can talk. But I discovered she isn't willing to listen.
Created: Tuesday, 23 September 2014 16:22
Nadine is a professional in my husband's industry. She was interested in seeing what my husband does, so we invited her and her husband over for dinner. We were surprised when Nadine extended the invitation to our mutual friend Mike and his wife.
We love Mike and enjoy his wife, but having them there as a couple would change the whole intent of the evening. Mike understood that. He offered to call Nadine and tell her he had a conflict, and we would all get together for dinner at his house another day. Bob told Mike,
- No need to lie. I don't want to involve you in any duplicity.
Bob said he would call Nadine and let her know that we'd like to get together with Mike and his wife another time, and keep the focus more professional for this event.
I love it.
I said almost the exact same thing to a friend only two days before. I interviewed someone my neighbor referred to me, and the interviewee reacted to some feedback I gave her. While she left all smiles, telling me how excited she was and how eager she was to start work, she called later and left me a voice mail saying she couldn't do it after all because of other commitments. (More on that later.) I visited my friend to talk about it - and to get a hug. The interviewee texted my friend while I was there. "I'll just tell her I haven't talked to you yet," my friend told me. I replied,
- Please don't lie. I have nothing to hide here. You are free to share anything I've said.
More and more, I find that saying what I mean and meaning what I say without being mean when I say it is the best approach. I remember when I asked a woman I respect what I could say about something, because I didn't want to blow her cover. She replied,
What a great way to live. Not always easy, but great.
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