"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Martin Luther King Jr.
I'm Not Ready to be Nice!
When I was younger I was responsible for getting my younger sister to do the dishes on the nights it was her turn. One night as we were arguing about her failure to clean the kitchen my father had enough of listening to us argue.
"Suz! Nanc! Go outside and don't come in until you're ready to be nice!"
We both did as we were told and went out on the back patio to cool off. After a few minutes my sister simply walked back into the house, but not me. I just sat out there and stewed.
Finally after so much time passed my father stuck his head out the door and said, " Suz, come on in."
But indignant I was yelled at for just trying to get my sister to do her job I was still too mad to come in and replied, "No! I'm not ready to be nice!"
Still Sitting on the Back Patio
That was one of those defining life moments for me. Over the past 45 years I've found myself 'sitting on the back patio' when someone hurts my feelings or inappropriately chastises me. There I am--totally unwilling to come in out of the cold to 'make nice'.
It's just how it is--there's a distinct period of time after a perceived injustice when I'm just not ready to deal. If I was to face the conflict before I was ready, it would only produce a poor outcome so I retreat into myself until I'm ready to come out.
Maybe Good Communication Begins with Avoidance
It's a no-brainer: If you're going to resolve conflict with someone you must face the issue and talk directly to the other person. But sometimes you're just not ready.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, we all have those private moments of feeling like a chastised child when someone gets mad at us or 'does-us-wrong'--especially if we're working hard to do good or 'get it right'. The unfairness of it all throws us into our own private childish funk.
Think about it: What was your private reaction to a recent unfair situation or perceived injustice? What conversation went on in your head? What did you want to say to that person but didn't? How did you blow off your anger? What's your 'sitting on the back porch unwilling to come in from the cold' experience?
Sure, as we mature we learn the art of waiting before we react when we're upset. But that doesn't stop the immediate feelings of being a reprimanded or discounted child. So maybe our path to good communication begins with avoidance. Avoiding a confrontation allows us to work through the child-like feelings before proceeding to facing the difficult--or crucial—conversation so we are better equipped to handle it well.
Self-Calming Activities Restore Your Mature Self
We all need time to let the heat of the moment subside. Stepping away from your hurt or anger to engage in self-calming activities is key to restoring good relationships and your mature self. Take a walk, talk to a friend, take a nap, play with your dog or participate in any pleasant activity that serves as a distraction from dealing with the issue.
The more time you put between when you first get upset and when you choose to talk with the other person, the more time you have to allow calm thinking and options to appear.
Go Ahead--Sit on the Back Patio Until You're Ready
There's nothing wrong with taking your time sitting in your feelings. Don't rush to deal with an issue before you're ready. Sit out in the cold for as long as you need to. Then, when you're ready, find a way to deal with the other person so your relationship is restored.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." George Bernard Shaw
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