I coached a teacher who was furious with her student’s father. “He’s an emotional bully,” the teacher said to me. “He pushes me around just like he pushes his daughter around, and I’m so angry that I can’t think straight.”
Good insight. This teacher – let’s call her, Sue – is probably feeling the same anger that the child feels, but perhaps can’t express.
Why was Sue so angry? Because the dad had stormed into a year-end parent – teacher conference, saying, “My daughter is not making good grades and it’s your fault for not teaching her what she needs to know.”
Outrageous. Rude. Out of line. Wrong.
I asked Sue,“Now that you’ve had some time to retreat from the crazy drama, what do you wish you could say to this father?”
“I wish I could say, ‘You’re crazy!’”
We laughed. That would be fun to say, but not terribly professional. Nor, necessarily, accurate.
But here’s the thing – what you yearn to say? That gem of outspoken, frank, heartfelt push-back? There’s a germ of truth in there that needs to be mined and SAID.
So, Sue needed to find the germ of truth. And she needed to say it. Here’s what she came up with: “Instead of telling him that he’s crazy,” Sue told me, “I really need to tell him that his expectations are unrealistic. That I’m an experienced teacher, that I have a perspective that’s valuable, and that his demands are simply not realistic.”
Sounds true. Solid. Right.
And, I’m betting that that’s exactly what this dad needs to hear. And, I’m betting that that’s exactly what this daughter will say to him when she finds her voice.
Sue reported back – the follow-up conference went well enough. No great breakthroughs for the dad, but a huge breakthrough for Sue.
The next time you think you can’t say what you mean, follow these steps:
Calm yourself & let go of that judgy part of you that wants to lash out.
Find the simple truth that needs to be said.
Say it with quiet confidence.
Let go of convincing anyone of anything, but stand in your truth.
Feel the freedom of knowing what you know, and saying it.
Let others in your life see what happens when you tell the truth.
Have you ever noticed how other people can pressure you to put your energy toward their needs, rather than toward your own priorities? Some people are sneaky and manipulative, which can actually make it easier to resist. Or rebel later.
Some people are just plain needy. You might feel sorry for them, and want to help. Interestingly, though, experience shows that pity is a poor substitute for good boundaries. Pity is patronizing. It’s dis-empowering.
Some people in your life may be very demanding. Whatever pressure you’re experiencing, you have the right to set a boundary. Don’t collude in pressuring yourself to measure up to other people’s expectations.
You might be juggling a lot of balls right now. Take a look at where they came from. Are they really yours? Or are you being pressured to be good, helpful, pleasing?
Are you even interested in playing this game?
If not, you don’t have to return the ball. Or volley it, catch it, run after it, or even notice it.
It’s not your ball. It’s not your game.
Play by your own rules, and your generosity towards others will come from the heart. Heart-felt generosity is effortless, and it makes magic happen in relationships.
Just last week, I went to a rural barn in South Carolina to try out a new pony. Her name was Rachel, and she was a pretty palomino paint with friendly eyes that sparkled.
I mounted and – off we went! She was incredibly sensitive, turning this way and that if I merely thought about how I might want to go this way or that. Every shift in the saddle was a message to Rachel, and she responded immediately.
It got me thinking about that part of us that is more ‘animal’ than ‘thinking human.’ We all have a physical and intuitive response to what our senses pick up. The more primitive part of our brain, the limbic system, is a powerful processor of sensorial information. It reacts quickly to input that we might be in danger. It sends us into fight or flight. It gives us a gut feeling about whether a stranger can be trusted.
Over time, if we are well-educated and good citizens, we learn to think through all this sensorial input with a different part of the brain – the neocortex. This can be very good. But it also can lead us astray – when we try to ‘talk ourselves out of’ irrational feelings.
When your gut and your thinking brain serve one another – that’s magic.
So, when folks come to the ranch to do groundwork with a horse, I often ask them, “What if you were a horse? What would you be doing right now?”
Play with this thought. Stop over-thinking, and just ask yourself, “What do I know without knowing how I know it?”
Do you try to make people like you? By doing favors, or making up compliments, or not saying something they’d object to? Do you say, ‘yes,’ instead of your heartfelt, ‘no,’ because you don’t want to make anybody mad or disappointed in you?
Why? Why do you do that?
I’m not talking about good manners. Good manners are meant to make life easier, not harder.
I’m not talking about going out of your way to share love out of a sense of common humanity in – well, everybody.
I’m talking about faking it. Out of fear.
What are you afraid of? Most of us have a hard-wired fear of being too alone. We’re social animals whose survival depended – quite literally, once upon a time – on our being a part of a group who had our back.
You may think that people won’t help you unless you help them, that they won’t admire you unless you admire them, that it’s all about racking up a bigger balance in your emotional bank accounts.
But that old self help model of doing for others so they’ll do for you is manipulative, controlling, and just plain flawed. It’s based on a scarcity mentality that there’s not ever enough goodwill to go around.
Plus, if you’re trying too hard to make people like you, then you’ll end up with friends who don’t really know you.
Ask yourself what your motives are. If you’re motivated by a desire to make yourself into someone else’s image of ‘likeable,’ then get clear. And stop that.
To the people who are meant to be ‘your’ people, you are inherently likeable, already.
Give them a chance to recognize you when they see you.
It’s mid-way into January, now… so, how’re those new year’s resolutions holding up?
If you’re faltering – and, if statistics are right, most of us will be – here’s a fresh take on why you might be in epic fail, and why that doesn’t mean what you think it means:
This is the time of year when we are bombarded with well-meaning, supposedly inspiring, pushy advice about how and who and what we should do/be/eat/not eat/remember/forget – so, most of us conscientious people try to do everything we are supposed to.
We try to do too much, too fast, with no kindness or sympathy for ourselves and no sense about how to make sustainable, progressive progress.
Just stop that.
I know that’s my own brand of pushy advice, so feel free to ignore it.
But, if this rings true for you, consider a different, slow-but-steady track. Consider looking to what happens in our natural environment when change is afoot.
At the ranch, we are blanketed in snow and all is cast in a bluish light while horses rest, activity slows, and we take care of the basic maintenance that winter demands. It looks as if not much is happening….
But, look again! The horses are resting, and when it’s time, they’ll join in their daily exercises and pasture outings with more energy than they could rustle up late last autumn. The staff is refurbishing our buildings, tack, and supplies, and doing training to get ready for our first class of coaches-in-training who’ll arrive this season. Seeds of all kinds are lying dormant but ready to sprout when the time is right.
How might your resolutions look if you were to honor this dormant time in your life, and encourage new growth with consistent kindness? One step at a time, with patience and persistence and an eagerness for the spring to come? What if you were to celebrate the tiniest green sprout, instead of demanding a fully grown pasture – in the dead of winter?
What if you aren’t ‘failing,’ but instead are getting feedback – that you need to focus, on first things first…?