4 min read
Repost from earlier blog, 2018.
Crisis. Chaos. Urgency. Demands. Anxiety and fear. Social change.
There's been so much, lately... and while I unapologetically let myself wander into flow-zones and creative bliss and write into inspired mindscapes, I work - daily - in public service. My career has been in the study, tending, and serving of humanity since I was young.
And the two greatest gifts that working in service of others can give - are perspective and empathy.
And I love what it does for my writing, I love the deeper dive it gives me, into humanity. I love the widening lens I have on myself, on my relationships, my life, as I learn more about human behavior. But I've also become better and more adept at crisis management, in times of trouble - and more precisely, communication during crisis.
Energy can rage high during times of crisis, and we've been hit with crisis after crisis, lately. The fear, pain, grief, and tension all come to a head over wrongdoing, inequality, unfairness, crime, acts of hate, personal loss, environmental devastation, petty disagreements, perceived hurt, lasting uncertainty, you name it.
It's so easy to get swept up in the fear - and it can distort the way that we communicate, even when our intentions are good and just. It's easy to react with anger. It's harder to respond with compassion. It's a practice, and a worthy one. Anyone that works in service - at any level - ought to be practiced in responding with awareness, compassion, and a calm-assertive mindset.
Confronting someone from a place of grounded awareness is often uncomfortable. It's tempting to shout and rage and blame, though it comes with regret and a handful of misjudgments and mistakes and even unintended harm, sometimes.
We've all been there, in our personal and working lives - there comes a time when we all must speak up.
Personal situations put us in the center of confrontation so often in our lives: it comes up when we have to share sad news, like an unexpected health crisis or the loss of a loved one. It comes up when there is a betrayal of confidence, or a wicked misunderstanding. It comes up when we grow and want more for ourselves - and we need to voice it. It comes up when we have to speak out against something immoral that we witness.
As we journey through life, opportunities to practice confrontation pop up constantly. The minor ones come and go, easily:
But it's the big ones that shake us and make us uneasy - it's the ones we don't like to think about. The confrontations that may cause change.
In the workplace, it comes up in the form of professional disagreements. When a supervisor must correct staff, or enforce a rule or regulation. When staff must speak up to a supervisor. When changes sweep through an organization, and staff must be re-educated. These are simple bubbles of change that rise up, anywhere.
And these dynamics occur in all sorts of relationships. In romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and larger scale relationships, as well. Government officials and the citizens who elect them. Between country leaders and other country leaders. Race, gender, ideology, religion, anything that denotes a kind of belief about oneself, their community, and the greater world engenders an idea of relationship. We are constantly in relationship - with ourselves and with others. We fight often, within ourselves, until we seek peace and find a resolution, and continue on down our path - and so it is outside of us, as well.
Any conversation that might result in an unpleasant emotional state, for one or both parties, can be unsettling. It's just the way of things and feeling nervous before a confrontation is normal. Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings is a normal, healthy reflex. It doesn't make us weak. But the truth must always come out if we want to ensure healthy relationships, on all levels. We must always say what needs to be said - sincerity is paramount, overall. When we swallow it down and over-accomodate others, we internalize and stifle ourselves, which is never healthy in the long run. And when truth must be spoken, those emotional soft spots should be respected, but not allowed to run the conversation.
"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes..." Maggie Kuhn
When the moment comes to deliver the news or ask the question or raise the issue, a series of things can happen:
But stay with it. Speak the truth, deliver the goods, even if you tremble or turn red. Your body will have a reaction the first time you do it, as the rush of energy pours out, it won't feel good. You might sweat or cry afterward or feel anger or want to withdraw for a while. Sharing truth is vulnerable. But know that truth - most times - is always better on the outside, and that the waves of emotion that rush in for both parties, should subside quickly. Nerves will settle. The anxious feeling doesn't stay long and the liberation of not holding it in anymore will leave room for something new - for some growth, for some forward momentum, for some new inspiration in the relationship.