My new mantra around Stories is this: “Check it out, and let it go.”
Stories are those beliefs that we assume as fact–that the world is or isn’t this way, or that so-and-so really meant this when she said that…and everything is a Story.
If I think someone’s pissed at me? If I’m worried that someone thinks I dropped the ball on something? Those times when I suspect that something is up with someone, but I’m not sure what? Check it out–and let. it. go.
We are the agents of our own suffering. We do this in no more concise and direct way than when we run Stories endlessly, but don’t check them out or let them go.
What does it look like to check out a Story?
Well, if I think that someone’s pissed, I’ll say something like: “I could be running a Story, but I notice myself thinking that perhaps you’re mad at me, and I wanted to check that out with you and see if it’s true.”
If I’m worried that someone thinks I dropped the ball on something: “I’m running a Story that you might think I’m a complete flake. I’m really sorry for forgetting about XYZ, and want to reassure you that it’s not a pattern.”
If I suspect that something’s up with someone, but I’m not sure what: “I keep getting this weird feeling and I have a Story that it means something’s off between us. Are you feeling anything, too?”
Clean. Concise. Direct. In integrity.
But what if…?
But admittedly, with this there is a scary possibility that stops people from checking out Stories: What if everyone starts telling the “truth”?
What if I tell the truth about what I notice, but then the person I’m speaking with pulls out a can of whoop-ass and wallops me with “truth” in the form of unfair criticisms? Or what if they’re perfectly honest and kind, but it still stings to hear?
First, let’s address the honest and kind yet “stings to hear” response: This is part of being in integrity. It’s straightforward and simple–but not always easy.
You’re asking questions and getting to the heart of the matter because then you get to drop the suffering of the Story and have clean energy between yourself and another human being. There’s richness in that. There’s richness in working through the sting, and forgiving yourself for being human. The richness is–and I can say this without hesitation–worth the risk. If you’re going to live this life, live rich!
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s address the “they respond by pulling out a can of whoop-ass” response:
When you align with an unwavering commitment to have a respectful conversation with someone, you align with love. When you align with love, you’re setting yourself up to make true, revolutionary changes, regardless of words spoken.
Here’s what you do. You interrupt them before it can get uglier, to say this: “Whoa” [insert holding up your hands; visual cues are helpful reinforcement when someone’s going ape-shit on you] “I do want to talk about this with you, and I want to own my part. Right now, this conversation isn’t feeling respectful. Can we shift this so that it is a respectful conversation?”
Get behind the choice to have respectful communication–no matter what.
If they immediately say yes to speaking respectfully, then everyone takes a second to breathe (note the importance of breathing) and then you try again.
If they immediately say no, or launch straight into how you “asked for it” or “shouldn’t have asked if you didn’t want the truth” or are trying to control “the way they express themselves” and force them to use communication that sounds like a “script” (can you tell that I’m relating this from, I dunno…personal experience?) then you say:
“Okay, I want to work this out, but it sounds like now is not the best time, so let me know when we can have a respectful conversation.”You tell them this while swallowing big gulps of air to keep calm and not sink to the level of disrespect (or, um, outright shaking).
Now, for some challenging possibilities:
Challenging Possibility #1: With some people in your life, especially people who have not done much work with effective communication, or people who are wounded around “being right,” you might be told to go fuck yourself.
Challenging Possibility #2: Someone who is annoyed at being called out on their own pattern or who is resisting acting with integrity might tell you that you are “too sensitive” or that “everything doesn’t need to be analyzed.”
I can say this with good authority, because not only have I been on the receiving end of these responses–I’ve also been the one who was furious that someone dared to insist on respectful communication.
Huge admission: I have told people I loved to go fuck themselves if they refused to allow me to express my anger by taking it out on them. I can only stand before you today and admit that so nakedly because I’ve forgiven myself for it.
I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Disrespectful communication just does not work.
It’s worth saying that perhaps neither of those possibilities will come up for you (fear that they will is another Story!). Your experience might be one of utter power–especially if you’re rooted in your commitment to only engage in respectful communication.
Nonetheless, it’s important to commit to this: If the disrespect keeps coming back into the conversation, you walk. Respect is non-negotiable. You stamp “TBD” on that conversation until it’s respectful.
And, of course–you let it go.
You say your piece. You do what you can. You communicate respectfully.
Then you let it go. If the conversation is unfinished, let it go–it’ll get finished when the time is right. If they said mean things–let it go. People’s interpretations of our behavior are really reflections of their own. If all went well–let it go. Stop apologizing. I once cleaned up an issue with someone where it was clear-cut that I was in the wrong. I apologized three different times, hoping that she’d forgive me and stop holding me at a distance. Nope, she never has.
Let it go.
It all happened how it happened. They said what they said. You apologized and did the best you could.