I recently called a family member “delusional.”
I apologized (but wish it hadn’t come out of my mouth).
Abortion, guns, the environment, voting rights…
Stakes are high and it’s easy to lose one’s cool.
I wish I hadn’t.
…because I love the person.
…and because, no matter how many valid points I made, they weren’t going to be heard as long as I was arguing.
Righteous anger (feeling like “this is no longer acceptable”) can be an important impetus to action.
But, unless you’re in immediate danger, fight mode can be counterproductive.
“Fight” is emotional. Black-and-white. All-or-nothing. Not listening.
My FB feed is full of “us” vs. “them” these days.
Someone would have to walk the plank to join the other side.
I remember marching in 2017, surrounded by pink pussyhats. I loved the collective energy and feeling like I was taking action. I also remember being shocked at some of what was shouted…not Michelle Obama “we go high” worthy.
Recent news has been full of protesters with in-your-face bullhorns. Chances are slim that whatever they’re blaring is going to change anyone’s mind.
How do we have conversations with the potential to effect change (instead of making people dig into their heels)?
Reminders to myself, too:
1) Unclench fists.
2) See the person you’re talking to as a person.What color eyes do they have? What does it look like they might be feeling in the moment? — It was easier for me to slip into being hurtful because we were on the phone…I didn’t see my words land. Face-to-face, whether in person or on video, is probably better for these kinds of conversations.
3) Get curious. Why do they believe what they do? What are their concerns?
4) Validate them. (Yes, really.) If you listened, something they said probably made sense, even if you disagree with it. — Validating sounds like: “it makes sense you feel that way. It sounds like that’s really important in the community where you grew up…”
5) Ask permission. Would they be willing for you to share some of your concerns and why? (If they say “no,” honor that. They can’t hear you right then. Maybe they’ll circle back to you someday – or get curious in another way.)
6) Remember you’re human, that you may not do any of the above perfectly – and do better next time.
Sending love in this trying time,
Sheila Devi is an Executive Life Coach.
She helps professionals in deadline-driven, high-stress careers, like law and accounting: 1) have more time to do their best work, 2) be the kind of leaders people want to work for, and 3) enjoy the lives they’ve worked hard to create.
Interested? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.