From my introductory series where I write my monthly column at the Smorgasbord Invitation:
I’ve been a storyteller since I was a young child — never a fibber — not that kind of storytelling. Whenever I’d heard or ‘overheard’ something when I was young, knowing I wasn’t supposed to be privy to, of course I had to tell someone what I’d heard. I hadn’t yet learned that by not telling all, it was easier to earn trust. By the time I was 10 years old, I was solid. Anyone could tell me anything and my lips were and still are sealed. I pride myself on not being a tattler or a rat and learned to keep my observations to myself.
I was an observer of people, and I didn’t have to look much further than my own family’s behavior to learn what makes people tick. What makes some people angry and some always singing? What kinds of things have I experienced to learn the warning signs of trouble? These are just some of the topics I’ll get into, sharing from my own experience, some of the emotions, and how we react to the different relationships we have with people.
For today’s topic we’ll start with communication. In order to make and maintain healthy relationships and keep them flourishing, not fizzling, respectful communication is essential. It isn’t just our words, but our body language we emote through our gestures, just as our silences do, the vibe we give off. A shrug denotes indifference, just as hands do waving in the air. And let’s not forget ‘a look’. Hey, I grew up with a stern mother. One scary certain look from her and I knew I’d better run for cover. A slammed door tells another story of frustration just as shouting and belittling of others does.
The old saying, ‘all is fair in love and war’ is cynical. Love isn’t always fair and there’s never anything good about war. We must learn diplomacy when faced with unpleasant situations because we don’t want to leave something hurtful behind from our voice or actions that becomes a future wedge between us and the people we’re upset with. Ranting and raving and throwing around hurtful words never helps any situation. Sure, they can be very cathartic in the short-term, but what about long-term repercussions long after the dispute? We must avoid fanning the flames in already heated moments to preserve our relationships. Even if this dispute becomes large enough that we wish to banish that person from our life or circles — don’t burn your bridges, translation: no bad-mouthing.
Nobody wants to be made to feel that they are small or insignificant by words of anger and it doesn’t serve to resolve anything except escalate an already inflammatory situation. There’s always a graceful way out. Creating bad blood has a tendency to follow us into the future. Life is a circle and we’re apt to meet up with those we’ve banished or bashed somewhere in life again, often unexpectedly — and that’s exactly it — you never know where or when. It could be through meeting other people, a job interview, an introduction to a friend who may be friends with the one you’ve banished or angered. Keep it simple and clean with a break, so those ugly repercussions don’t show up when you least expect them. And be very careful about sharing your hurt feelings on social media because that’s like pouring kerosene and lighting a match to the problem once hurtful words are spread around the cyberverse.
We must learn to convey our grievances with friends and loved ones with honesty and sincerity, explaining what is bothering us and discussing. And believe me, I know very well that some people will never learn to contain their tongues or emotions. If we’ve made the effort to discuss and are faced with the same indignation and screaming match that’s probably a sign it’s time to walk away. Sometimes silence is the healthiest answer. If we’re living under the same roof with the person we’re in conflict with, we need to take a step back, take time to sort our thoughts before we speak.
Once hurtful words are spoken, we can never take them back. If we have good relationships at home and conflict arises, a timeout gives both parties a time to reflect. Once some time has passed and the anger of the heated moment passes, it’s much easier to discuss the issue at hand. A good tip to remember is — speak without shouting or accusing. Don’t point a finger at that person and tell them what we feel they did or said wrong. Speak about your feelings, speak about what you feel has hurt you about the situation to inform the other party about what you are feeling. Nothing will ever get resolved in anger. Remember, don’t try and be logical and problem solving in the heated moment. Take that step back and let the silence cool the embers before attempting to resolve.
Similarly, if we’re in conflict with a friend or co-worker, the same distance is suggested. Our relationships with loved ones and relationships with friendships outside the home can be dealt with in the same manner. But if those outside friendships have suffered familiar ongoing issues, and we’re faced with a less than agreeable opponent willing to make amends or uninterested in rectifying a situation, that should be a huge flag for us to think about moving on.
Only honest discussions and having respect for other’s feelings can offer healthy solutions with minimal fallout. Using best efforts to eliminate hard feelings or scars when communicating our feelings and gripes can seem trying in the moment of conflict. Also, by not discussing our grievances and by just tolerating the issues that bother us isn’t healthy either. These issues left unattended to will only grow within us, eventually, festering and building a growing resentment for the offending person, which can become a forever wedge in the relationship if left to stew internally and not discussed. Carrying slights and unresolved grievances within us is a recipe for unhappiness. We must try to salvage issues with honest discussion. If we can’t find it in ourselves to confront the one we have issue with, we then have to find a peace within ourselves, acknowledging that we’ve tried our best to rectify to no avail, and make a decision to move on.
We must remember that every good relationship is good because we nurture it by being kind and compassionate, listening, communicating, giving and taking, and most of all respect. When we begin to feel someone stops having time for us, isn’t interested in what we have to say, is not giving back of themselves or displays no interest trying to resolve ongoing issues, it may just be time to leave.
All the above elements in a relationship are the parts we must nurture to keep them solid. This is the work I refer to. I use the word work, but we can easily replace it with effort. If we don’t put in the effort to maintain good relationships, we can’t expect them to last. Simple as that.
Later on in this series I’ll delve into some specific relationships we have with people — parents, spouses, friends, children, etc., and talk about what makes them good, warning signs, and steps and actions to take to avoid unpleasant occurrences in our relationships and how to deal with them..
My PHD is life, and my life has been a quite colorful one to say the least when it comes to my life experiences. I grew up as a very insecure, emotionally scarred little girl. My childhood and teenage years were spent observing. I began reading self-help books in efforts to make some sense of my slights in life and trying to better myself and my self-esteem. I did some crazy things along the way, to say the least, but I didn’t really have any teachers, only the will to learn, the desire to feel better about myself, my compassion for others, and the things I witnessed from a young age that children should not have to witness. In my book Words We Carry I share some of the incidents and relationships I witnessed, learned and experimented with to help better myself and grow a self-esteem. In one of my memoirs, Twenty Years: After “I Do”, I share how I kept my marriage going strong, despite the many incidents that can happen to potentially throw it off balance.