I just had an epiphany, and I thought I’d share it with all of you as a way to fully process what just happened. I can’t remember the last time I was chewed out by someone. In fact, there was a time where I would bite back with a sharp demand for respect. I would sternly ask the person to change his/her tone. When I was a young teenager I remember being told that people treat you the way you allow them to treat you. So, I never allowed anyone to yell at me. By the way, I just had about 2 glasses of wine so I don’t know if it’s the alcohol speaking or I’m truly having a change of heart here, but I think I have a different attitude now.
About 2 hours ago I was on the cell with a new business partner who expressed a little frustration with me. While she was giving me the beat down, I found myself in this intense listening mode, taking it in as if I were a ball player being verbally battered by a coach. Surprisingly, I didn’t have the intense emotion I used to experience during these types of moments. Those encounters would quickly trigger something inside of me where I would respond aggressively. A boss I had years ago started chewing me out one day and when he noticed how I was responding he became nervous. He was so taken aback by my reaction, he didn’t know how to respond. He must have said, “I can respect that” about a dozen times in our short 5 minute conversation. Now, in retrospect I clearly see that my old attitude was anchored to the idea that I had to demand respect from others. Where I came from you were “soft” if you didn’t demand respect. I’m now beginning to see that a non reaction can be just as effective as an aggressive one, only if you show signs that you’re holding onto self-respect. I’m able to detach more easily now.
I don’t know if it’s simple maturity or the fact that I don’t care much about what others think of me anymore. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “My opinion of you is none of your business.” Perhaps it is maturity. But I feel led not to make this about me right now. I would like to make it about those who have been on the other end of my frustration.
Many people have told me over the years that I can be intimidating, my own mother even told me that once. Listening to this person express her frustration toward me, let’s call her Tammy, I was reminded of how I have spoken to others over the years. I’m sure Tammy didn’t feel that she was yelling or speaking in a disrespectful tone. She even made a comment at the end of our conversation about the importance of being direct with me.
Right there in the heat of her frustration, I thought about how all those who were on the receiving end of my frustration must have felt. It was as if I was listening to an echo of myself, same kind of tone and everything. One particular person years ago said that I was the first person to chew her out only to turn around in the next moment to show kindness.
Why was it ok for me to do my share of tongue lashing when it wasn’t ok for me to receive it? Looking back I didn’t see it as verbal aggression. I thought that I was simply being direct and if the other person expressed any type of hurt over my words, it was their problem. They shouldn’t be so insecure, I would say. I can hear a sister of mine say in a sassy voice, “You can dish it out but you can’t take it.” Well, I guess she was right.
Although I have greatly improved with how I speak to others, I can still be somewhat of a direct person. Perhaps tomorrow I will show a little more kindness and compassion in my directness. I once heard on the Dave Koz radio show, “If you do everything with love in your heart, you will never want to do it any other way.” I don’t remember who the quote was from, but I do remember what I thought when I heard it. “Even during moments of discontent and frustration?,” I said. Yes, even more so then ever before.