October 19, 2014
“…now I can relax and just be myself”.
Hmmm…turns out not so much. When my son was pretty young I had an epiphany. I realized I would never talk to a friend the way I sometimes talked to him. When I got my way I was a happy, pleasant housemate. When I didn’t, I whined, nagged, guilted, cajoled, sulked or asserted my authority by being self-righteous and talking him to death, or finally, if none of those worked, coming at him like a banshee.
Yeah, that worked!!
Coming to the awareness of what didn’t work–being on automatic pilot and vomiting whatever came into my head–reinforced my desire to better understand what does work, especially in emotionally intimate relationships like romantic partnerships and relationships with our kids, our parents and our siblings.
What does seem to work is to pause before I speak or act to make sure I’m communicating what I want to communicate. I respect you and I respect myself. Enough so that I choose to treat you and our relationship like they matter. I pause before I speak or act to make certain I’m acting in a way that will get me closer to what I want rather than farther away.
Moving my attention from being ‘right’, or ‘good’, or ‘justified’ to what works was another epiphany. When I act out of a focus on being right, good or justified I tend to be a jerk!! Shocking how often I’ve faced that awareness! But when I focus on saying or doing something that will work, that will get me closer to what I want (a warm and loving relationship), I intuitively know what to do. And it doesn’t actually involve whining or aggressing against anybody.
I’m not encouraging you to be a fake. I am suggesting that maybe what comes naturally when you’re ‘just being you’ when you walk in the door at the end of the day may not get the best outcome. If I’m honest with myself, automatic pilot hasn’t really been my friend in my most important relationships. It’s great for riding a bike and brushing my teeth, but not so great for getting in touch with wisdom or compassion.
Can you think of an important relationship or a conversation that you’ve been putting off that might benefit from starting with the pause?