Saturday, 8 June 2013

Is being "wrong" really that bad?

It’s funny how time affects memories and links things together in a strange collage of time and events.  

At the end of May last year I was up in Glasgow with my family celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday.  We arrived a few days before the celebrations to a complex break-up situation between the Mum (a long-time friend) and her partner.  My dh and I tried to create a buffer between the couple to lessen the stress being caused to the birthday girl and her siblings.  Over the few days we were there, we listened, advised as friends, reflected back feelings, listened some more and tried to help as best we could.  After the break-up both dh and I were blamed by the ex for various mistakes, and ultimately, his break up. 

Fast forward to this May and I have been embroiled in another situation where it seems blame has been directed from one individual towards many.  I understand that it isn't easy admitting that you might have been wrong or incorrect in your assumptions.  I still find it difficult - get defensive and try and justify that what I did was ok.  Although I do not think this is human nature, as such, I feel it is a deep conditioning in a lot of us on this planet.  I used to think it was great being able to blame someone else but not anymore because I know how detrimental it is to how I feel deep down inside.   

My dilemma is:
Do we have a moral obligation, or a right, to tell someone when we feel that they have got it wrong?  
If there are other people involved, especially kids, should we speak up?  
I needed to be at my friend’s 18th celebrations regardless of the circumstances.  Should I have ignored what was going on between her Mum and the partner?  Should I have just listened, tried to shield the kids from the emotional outfall but not given any advice even when asked? 

wouldn't let a friend mistakenly run in front of a car if I could stop it.  I wouldn't tell them as they lay in a hospital bed, recovering from the accident, that I thought they needed to 'learn' from their experience of being hit by a car.  So why would I let a friend (or any fellow human being) run in front of a metaphorical car in terms of destructive behaviour,  making mistakes, or let them continue to be in denial of their behaviour and its consequences?  Why do they need to learn for themselves when someone can point it out to them in a compassionate way? 

I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I just know I feel uncomfortable about these two situations and they led me to write this blog.  

I am glad that I have friends and family who challenge my behaviour.  It isn't easy to hear when you have done something wrong (I don’t like that word but it will have to do).  Being told I have been overly defensive, sarcastic, or anything similar is upsetting but I, like everyone else, can 'get over' being upset.  It isn’t the end of the world and I would rather know in the long run then not know.  

No-one has ever died from being told they didn’t do something as well as they could, especially if it is delivered in a friendly way that keeps the “wrong” behaviour separate from the person.  [Non-violent communication (NVC) is very good for examples of this, as is the Siblings without Rivarly and Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk books.  You don’t tell someone that they are a bad person - you tell them that they have acted badly.] 

So here are some of my relationship facts:
  1. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated
  2. Being told something you did is your fault NEVER killed anyone.  Accept it, don’t automatically justify your way out of it, sit with the feelings for a while and see what happens.  You know what though? – the world won’t end if you did do something wrong and if you didn’t then you have to wonder why the other person thought that you did and remember point 1
  3. Not accepting that something is your fault when it might have been at some level affects your self-esteem in a detrimental way and could negatively affect your relationships – so is being right really worth it?
  4. Blaming someone else for any thing in your life is making you a victim and removing your control over your own life.
  5. No-one can make you do anything you don’t want to (other than in a very, very small set of circumstances) so accept your place in the universe, warts and all. 
  6. We all have flaws, faults, patterns of behaviour which aren’t helpful to us but again acting out on these is not the end of the world.  Apologise when you realise, try and learn from the experience and move on.  Also if someone else points it out to you refer to point 2
  7. Someone so hell-bent on being right is missing the opportunity to see where they might have been mistaken.  Sympathise with them because they aren’t really living, learning and growing (see point 4 and below)
Anyway attending the Hoffman Process a few years ago really helped me accept my “faults” without being as defensive or feeling as guilty.  I now find it easier (not easy yet – but easier) to apologise when I have made a mistake.  This willingness to accept responsibility for my actions has brought me closer to my friends and family.  It also means that every time I accept my not-so-nice behaviour I learn about myself and it becomes easier to acknowledge a mistake the next time.  Accepting my flaws and weaknesses actually makes me stronger and it seems to me that people who cannot accept theirs are more unhappy because they are caught up in a myth of who they really are. 

I don’t want to live my life as part myth and part me. 

I want to life my live part me and another part me, even if that second part:

makes mistakes (they are my mistakes)
has regrets (they are my regrets) 
hurts other people (I can apologise and re-connect with them)
lets people down (I can make it up to them and re-connect with them)

And by accepting these things about myself, I am accepting and loving myself.  Only by accepting and loving myself, can I accept and love others.  By continuing to learn and admit when I get it wrong, I give my friends and family the ability and space to do the same.  As Brene Brown would put it “for connection to happen [between human beings] we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen” – warts and all!!!

Maybe that is the answer to my dilemma.  If everyone could find a way to accept themselves for the wonderful, unique person that they are, maybe blame and the need to be right would become a thing of the past.  Until it does though, I celebrate my ability to say sorry and try harder next time and hope you will join me!!!!!

Click here to see Brene’s blog.  Click here for her "Listening to shame" TED talk and here for her "Power of vulnerability" TED talk.

"The Hoffman Process is an intensive 8-day residential course that promotes personal discovery and development."  You cannot really sum it up that easily because what you learn, experience and feel in those 8 days is potentially life-changing.  Click here to see the Hoffman Process UK website or contact me via the form on my website here, if you want to know more about my personal experience on the process.

"The key focus of NVC is - noticing the feelings and needs in ourselves and others, as a way of being in touch with what really matters to us and others.  In addition, to achieve greater clarity in our self awareness and ‘inner chatter’, and to decrease the likelihood of others hearing blame or criticism in the words we use with them, NVC brings our awareness to making factual observations without judgements and also to making clear specific requests in our dialogues with others."  Click here to go to the UK NVC website, here for the Siblings Without Rivalry book, here for the How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk book and here for the teenage version of the Talk book. 

Another brilliant perspective on a similar subject here - "There can often be many ‘right’ answers to a situation or for resolving a conflict. So the perception that there is just one  right answer  and all others are wrong is limiting."

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