In our classes, we teach about the tools of “safe” communication, about taking timeouts when things get heated or when my bucket gets full during a discussion, or when we need to regroup and focus on what the issue is, not the emotions.
It’s a weird feeling when we use/reuse those tools in “live fire” situations, especially right after having taught about them, from our class this past weekend at SELF.
This morning, we had a situation where I was feeling upset over the way the conversation between angie and I had turned “squishy.” That’s our phrase for when it feels bad, when things feel sour or when emotions are starting to rise to bad places. In the past, we would have kept with the situation, pushing and rising with the emotions until it got ugly. I was in the middle of a work morning with meetings, which didn’t lend itself to us having a decent communication. So I nipped the squish in the bud… told angie I would call her at 9:30 after my meetings were over, and that we were taking a timeout on talking until then. It was about a 30 minute timeout. 9:32, we were on the phone.
Set up/reminded that the ground rules were to discuss what we saw/felt happening without blame, using I statements. Safe communication. From that, I found out she woke up very sick after I had left for work, and that she had been confused by the situation. She/we have also been going through some really tough challenges family-wise, so although we have some resolution to that situation, there’s still some drop after that – when someone’s been wound up tighter than a drum, it takes awhile to get back to an even keel. I told her about the morning, about what her words and actions had communicated to me, what was going on at work and how the situation had played out. We both agreed that it was one of those unfortunate things that would have spiraled if we didn’t take a step back, deep breath, hear all the underlying things that we weren’t seeing or in knowledge about.
I know this all sounds easy-peasy, mundane, “why is he posting about such easy stuff”, but it’s not always that easy, especially when there are a lot of external pressures. Not only with the family issues, but trying to get ready for Pride weekend and our UK trip and running on some lack of sleep already, sometimes the simplest things feel like they can be big landmines. We try to use our tools for big and small situations.
Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall there was this one: “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.” Master lttei commented, “Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.”
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo, The Hagakure