Monday, December 3, 2007

The Power in a Word

I had a wonderful conversation recently with a good buddy of mine, named Tim (we have many, this was just the most recent). And, as I have been traveling through this difficult patch in my life he has been a comfort and a grounding force.

Our most recent conversation had to do with dealing with difficult situations and recognizing the gift these situations bring us. (I have been quite gifted lately!). Anyway, during this pondering, I began to tell stories about decisions I have made in my past that have been simple yet profound in terms of a particular dynamic I deal with.

You see, I often find myself conflicted about trying to honor other people's needs and my own needs. And, sometimes others around me choose to act with manipulation or act selfish or act rude to deal with their stuff. For the most part, I believe that they don't mean to be rude, they just act that way from time to time. It may be that they have competing interests or they have a need or whatever.

One story I told him was about a time when I worked with a management team at a social service agency. The team would get together weekly to keep there eye on the business, plan programs and events and discuss other matters of consequence. One of the expressed values for each meeting was to check in at the beginning of the meeting and let folks know what was on our minds and put things aside so we could focus during the rest of the meeting.

Each member took a turn and shared personal and professional things. It was during these times that I recognized a pattern when it was my turn to speak. People would shuffle through papers, lose eye contact and sometimes even have side conversations. There were only 5 people in the room!- this was very noticeable to me and I felt horrible. I had doubts about whether they really valued me or not.

So, I decided to express my concern. They listened and seemed to understand, they even partially apologized. But, the behavior continued. Now, I knew these folks cared about me- but this behavior was downright rude and disrespectful. I thought about it a long time. I figured I could have a temper tantrum and rightly so; but, that was not really my style. And, I doubted it would even work, if my honest attempt at a request did not bear fruit.

So, I decided to look deeper into the dynamic. I became a pseudo research scientist. I started to notice when they checked out and when they listened. I came to discover something. They checked out every time I started to talk about my feelings. When I used the word "feeling or I feel", they would get scattered.

I remembered taking the Meyers Briggs standardized test and the test has a category that measured whether you are a "feeling" person or a "thinking" person. I wondered if a word in itself could have that much power. So, with intention, I attempted to replace the word feel with think during these meetings and I tracked the results. Know what? It was an immediate response and difference. It was like I became E.F. Hutton. This moment and the research that preceded it -has changed my behaviors, the results those behaviors bring and consequently- my life.

Now, I still think it was not right for my colleagues to treat me the way they did. And, if truth be told, they should have made changes to support me; but, I was able to change a bit to get what I needed from the situation and my actions made it more possible for them to hear me.

I guess it was a way for me to do something about my situation and not stay stuck.

I really trust my gut when it tells me to keep noodling something. I suppose I have a lot to noodle in life. So, I am off to do my research. It is my sincere desire to be the best me I can be, and find the resources within myself to learn what I can from these situations.

I get tired of feeling bad. It is time for me to have some trust that those around me really do love me (and even if they don't) I just need to seek a way to communicate differently (more effectively) - through my actions or words. And, I need to have faith that I have what I need inside of me to rise above and bear fruit.


Jim said...

It's true that words do make a difference, Erin. Remember for yourself, though, that thinking and feeling are two different things and that you should be allowed both.

It's good to read what you have to say! Thanks for telling me about the blog.

Erin said...

Thanks Jim! I am consistently trying to figure out how to get my message across without compromising the meaning or intent. I appreciate your perspective regarding feeling and thinking - and in safe, quiet moments, I actually share the real deal- but, I have learned to choose those moments wisely.