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.