I’ve spoken about the importance of checking out Stories–and then letting them go.
I’ve discussed the worst-case scenarios of someone responding to your check-in with harsh criticism and anger, and how aligning with the choice to have a respectful dialogue can move mountains.
“But wait,” you might be thinking, “I’ve done this before–asked someone if they were upset with me. Instead of getting angry, they’ve just sort of brushed the question aside and said nothing was wrong, but clearly, something was definitely wrong. Sometimes, I’ve even had them confirm, later on, that something was wrong at the time, and they just weren’t admitting it.”
We all know these people, right? And hopefully, aside from the annoyance of that kind of passive-aggressive behavior, there’s some room to have compassion for them. Clearly, they were not raised to believe that they would be respected and heard if they spoke their truth, or they’re afraid that they won’t know how, or they know what they want to say but they’re too angry to say it and they’re fearful of their own anger.
And now, after that centering in compassion…this is the part where we get to let everyone do something really radical: be an adult.
If you check in with someone and they’re saying one thing, but you definitely sense another thing is going on, you could speak into that: “I hear that you’re saying you’re not upset, but when I see ABC action/hear XYZ tone, I notice myself sitting with a Story that you really are upset. If that’s just my mis-perception, fine, but I just really wanted to make sure that everything’s okay.”
That tends to bring more honesty to the table, in a loving yet no-bullshit kind of way. It’s a way of saying to someone, “C’mon, now. Work with me, here.”
But what if they won’t cop to it, even then? Be an adult.
Let. It. Go.
Let it go. Let them be where they’re at. In any relationship, there’s the integrity of each person owning their own part. You’re owning your part–sharing what you notice with an openness and honesty that also leaves room for their interpretation of what’s going on. Beyond that? It’s not your responsibility to change them or get them to tell the truth. Repeat after me: Not. Your. Responsibility. Be an adult. (And let them choose whether or not to act like an adult, too).
In fact, repeated overtures to try to coax “the truth” out of them will only result in perpetuating their pattern of detaching from you so that you’ll run after them to bring along the Big Fix.
We’re not six years old anymore, sitting in corners with crossed arms and pouty lower lips. If someone is upset with you and pulling that with you, don’t support their behavior by engaging with them as if they’re six. Engage with them as an adult–let them know that when they’re ready, you’re there. Until then? Not your work. Let them act like an adult.
Meanwhile…Take care of yourself. Go into a room and scream into a towel. Cry. Take time for solitude. Feel the full hurt of it, because it’s real and it’s there. The only way out is through, you know. No need to put on the brave face–the reality is that it hurts when we feel disconnected from other human beings. Keep on having compassion for whatever part of them faces so much fear in expressing their truth and having an open, honest, respectful dialogue.
If you’re upset with someone, go deep within yourself to figure out where it’s your issue and what your part is, commit to respectful conversations, and then check in…and let it go.
Let. It. Go. Don’t let them go–just let the control of the situation, or their behavior, go. You can’t control it, anyway. You can only do your part. You can choose to be an adult, and let them make the choices they want to make about their own behavior.
P.S. Here’s the part where everyone reading this post is officially invited to take a moment, and breathe, and ask yourself realistically if you have been That Person who passive-aggressively resists cleaning up a sticky situation…and now, release yourself from that dungeon by dropping everything and making the phone call you know you need to make–cop to it.
Come clean. Call the person who invited you to speak your truth and tell them, “So sorry that I chickened out. Will you forgive me? Can we talk now, and work this out so that we can be free of it?” Align with love. Align with respectful communication. You can’t go wrong when you’ve got those two on your side.