We all have those Oh Crap moments - the moments we wish we could take back - the moments when we know we are going to regret the words or tone that came out of our mouths, the moments when we wish we had a big shovel to clean up the mess we just made.
The recipients of our fling fest are usually the ones closest to us: our spouses, kids and friends. The ones we least want to hurt and most value are the closest target that our mess heads for. Often, the aim is much more accurate and stronger than our intention is good. We don't do it on purpose. But, we are still responsible for it's impact.
Hopefully this doesn't happen very often. But, it will happen even to the most experienced of parents and communicatively skilled of us.
How can we minimize the destruction?
If something spurred the interaction then there was probably something worth discussing. It is our choice of words, our timing, our assumptions, and our own agendas are the launcher that hurls destruction. Being aware of these four areas before, during, and after can help us to be responsible and take personal accountability for how we react and respond.
- Words - Our word choice is crucial in whether the other person is putting on body armor or opening their arms to embrace us. Using divisive (you), accusatory (you always), or minimizing language (your fault, or name calling) automatically backs the other person into a corner. Find words that bring a common place for you to have discussion. Realize that communication is not an I vs. You event. It is a WE event.
- Timing - Keep in mind that our need to speak does not always match up with another's willingness or readiness to hear. Respect if the other person is not in that place at the moment. Ask if the discussion can continue later and revisit it then. It gives you time to cool down, think about your words as well as giving the other person time to do the same. There will be times when issues need to be addressed very quickly and on the spot - but even then, we can find an appropriate location and way to do it.
- Assumptions - If you are assuming someone will act a certain way it is probably from past experience. You may prepare for responses and reactions in a defensive way because of the way the last interaction went. You know the script - you know what happens next. Here's the thing.... you are a part of that script. If you change your words, your timing and your assumption, there is no more script. Your interaction becomes intentional ad-lib and can move forward in a different way. If you assume that a person feels a particular way or that they understand your point of view and feelings, think again. You are not in their head or heart. Your words and your timing is what will open up their feelings and their understanding.
- Agendas - In reality, the only agenda that impacts how we respond and react is our own. To say it is another's agenda is to give away our freedom and power to communicate. As we open our mouths or consider opening them, we have to keep in mind why we are doing it. Are we being ethical (not intending to hurt, minimize, create division) in our agenda? Is this just for me to vent or will this bring out a positive change? Am I using this as a rhetorical event (passive aggressiveness) or do I really want to have a discussion with the person?
My Mantra: Today I know that I will work to give my best, be my best, and live my best. I also know that I am a continual work in progress - sometimes needing refining, reflecting and restructuring.
Do you ever wish you could take back what you have said or how you have reacted?