When Fearless Conversation Actually Starts with Yourself
So, what are you bringing to the Thanksgiving table this year?
And by that, I'm asking, what baggage are you bringing?
Have you been mad at your sister since you were 15 because she always gives you that ‘I don’t like your hair’ look?
Or what about Dad...did he miss your recital 100 years ago and you're still carrying hurt?
I'm working super hard to teach my kids to have fearless, loving, conversations. When I tell my 5 year old daughter to talk to her friend if she is upset, she immediately clams up and shakes her head no. It is amazing that from a very young age, there's a fear of being vulnerable, looking someone in they eye and telling them how we feel.
Right now in our family, the Thanksgiving emails are flying. We're all excited to plan the meal and divvy up the list for our three day family mountain adventure. Everyone is responding with their to-do's and to-bring's...except for one person.
Crickets from my sister-in-law.
Until she finally responded that she'll be contributing the cranberries.
Annoyed beyond what I generally find acceptable, I wanted to email back ‘and….’ but that would have been ugly.
Do you find it easier to talk to your sister or brother about your family members instead of having the direct conversation that makes you sweat and want to die? Why do people (whom we love so dearly) push our buttons so easily over really trivial stuff? And more importantly, why are we so afraid to have the fearless conversation?
Holidays are great at bringing up cringe-y feelings that take us back to when we were 10 and felt powerless to speak our minds. Wouldn’t it be great if you could eat your turkey and pie in joy with no stress over relationships that challenge you? This would require that we get real and ask ourselves a few important questions:
#1: Why do I even care so much about this trivial stuff in the first place?
#2: Is this really about them or possibly about me?
#3: Can I be vulnerable enough to have the conversation?
#4: Can I listen fearlessly? This means that I open my heart and hear what they have to say too.
For me, this might be a good time for me to say something loving and honest to my sister-in-law about showing up with just cranberries and doing as little as possible and expecting everyone else to cater to her family.
But then again, why do I even care so much about how little she's contributing? Why can’t I just love that she is coming in town and expect nothing of her and her husband?
My throat is already tight and I am mentally stuffing my feelings with pie and lots of mac-n-cheese.
What's the real issue here? Surely not cranberries.
I have no idea why I find this tidbit a little feather-ruffling, except that she is that one in this family. You know that one? Every family has at least one. There's always something she does that's inconsiderate and self serving--not always to me, but to other family members. Is this my baggage or am I carrying around stuff that belongs to this family from decades ago? Typically I could care less about stuff like this. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
Time to go to the mountain top and get real with myself.
I have a general rule--and that is, if I find other's behavior to be super-irritating, usually it's about me. Darn it!
I have a feeling there might be some other issues whirling around in the subconscious waiting to be addressed and now I must deal with them before I say anything to anyone about anything. The fearless conversation that needs to happen actually has to start with myself.
Until I understand myself, then honestly, whatever I say or only think, is coming from my super-large ego.
Fast forward to mission mostly accomplished. After some reflection about why I actually care, what I uncovered was a much larger issue of honesty from this sister in law. (Uh-oh this could be messy!) But I'm willing to talk about it in order to have an authentic relationship with her. Truth be told, the best thing has already come out of this process. I needed to identify what was bothering me, which actually had absolutely nothing to do with her. I found out that my own stuff was clouding everything. She could have said she was bringing the entire dinner and I would have still found a reason to be upset.
However, I'm not off the hook yet. There is an authentic relationship still waiting to grow, and thus a now less-dreaded fearless conversation to be had with her when the time is right. (obviously it's not something to bring up at a family gathering, it requires a one-to-one non-threatening environment.)
Before you sit down to a super-tense Thanksgiving table, why not have that fearless conversation with yourself about how you feel and release yourself from inner purgatory? Help yourself get free and look for ways to love boldly and embrace the source of your discomfort--i.e your mother, great aunt, mother-in-law or brother.
After all, it really isn’t about them--but about you--and your opportunity to grow and be more of who your Creator made you to be: loving, kind and fearless.
Your holiday will be a lot more fun and you get to teach your kids about how to love boldly and talk about it instead of amass a pile of baggage.
No matter how tart the taste, I'm going to eat cranberries this year and find the sweetness in them.
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The sister in law may have wounds from this family or her family of origin if not this one that you know nothing abt. Not only that, but you just nationally outed her. What if she read your writing? It makes you sound like you already won’t be giving her a chance, and you feel she owes you something. Possibly an opportunity to offer grace and a listening and sympathetic ear instead of all too common judgement. This is a very one-sided viewpoint, and although great introspection, definitely feels like a missed opportunity to love someone who may be backing away as an introvert who would love nothing more than Thanksgiving alone with her family or a person who for whatever reason doesn’t have the capacity for the relationship you have in mind. Not everyone is where you’re at, right?
This post has me nearly shaking with anger and frustration. The lack of perspective and understanding here is overwhelming. It may help you confront your problem to do this, but potentially creates a much larger one for someone else. If I tried this with my family, I can think of so many potential problems with this strategy, bc not a one is a healthy person capable of an open conversation such as what you described. Why is it even the sister-in-law’s responsibility to answer? If it is her husband’s family and not her own, it is as much his responsibility if not more. Perhaps she resents her husband’s hands-off approach to his own family and responsibilities for gathering with them and is stepping back and refusing to overfunction, allowing him to take responsibility for his role. Maybe they have a toxic relationship and the last thing she wants to do is be closed up in a mountain retreat with he and them? You have already judged her as being a taker and less than forth-coming, but especially if this is not her immediate nuclear family, perhaps she does not have relationships in it that are life-giving to her, or even the capacity to build those. Not everyone comes away from a nuclear family aware of how their scars affect others or what to do with them. Many are left surviving and continually focused on their own scars and preventing new ones, or completely unaware of their own feelings and unable to be objective. In this case, she would be a wounded person to be kind to, not the self-absorbed liar you portray here.
The person you are talking abt has to be able and emotionally capable of having a conversation like this with you. Do you know that she is? If not, you will be doing far more damage suddenly confronting her if she doesn’t have the tools to have the convo. She will retreat far more, the size of her wound/obstacle would increase, and your objective will be thwarted. Think, please, from perspectives other than your own, before publishing advice like this. Good grief, I can’t believe how little thought went into the perspective of the others involved here!
We are so very sorry this post had such a hurtful impact on you. We certainly understand where you’re coming from, however, if you reread the post, the author is actually realizing that any “issues” she has with her sister-in-law are the author’s own internal issues that she first needs to deal with, and when the time is right, to talk with her sister-in-law about it. But only after the author herself has processes through why the response bothers her so badly. The author admits that she must first understand herself and why she would respond in this manner.
I love the way this blog is written – it’s clear, concise, and easy to understand.