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May I first reassure you that avoiding the “pink elephants” in the room is common, human nature? It’s uncomfortable and painful, and the unknown is frightening. However, the truth of the matter is is that it atually takes more emotional and physical energy, not to mention the precious commodity of time, to AVOID the elephant than to acknowledge its existance, head, trunk, ears, and all!
Choose to be Un-Offended
An ideal place to begin is to see if you can choose to NOT be offended. This is my favorite place to start if at all possible. Not everything needs to be discussed or hashed-out; some things need to be immediately ignored, forgiven, and dropped.
I love the story of the two Zen Buddhist monks who came to a stream, which was pretty rough, and encountered a beautiful young woman, who couldn’t swim and who asked them to carry her across it.
The young woman said, “The stream is flooded. I really can’t swim. Will you help me across?” The young monk was horrified at her request and replied, “No madam I’m sorry, we’re sworn to chastity and I can’t carry you across the stream. I can’t touch a woman. I can’t do it.” The old monk thought for a minute and then he said, “I’ll help you.” So he took this beautiful young woman in his arms, and he carried her across the stream. She thanked him much and they both went on.
The two monks continued walking along in silence for a mile or two and then then the young monk couldn’t take it any longer and he scolded the old monk’s unchaste behavior. He said, “How could you do a horrible thing like that? Take this beautiful young woman in your arms, and carry her across the stream like that?” And the old monk said, “My son, I put her down a long time ago; you’re still carrying her.”
Confront Kindly & Courageously
Let me clarify what confrontation is not; it is not yelling and scraming matches; it is not hysteria. It is meeting someone face to face, in privacy. Allow both sides to speak their truth honestly and directly. Now, keep in mind that we often open the door to the other party’s hurt feelings, as well. So, not only will we be sharing our hurt feelings but we’ll likely to need to respond to the hurt feelings of another. Take turns, listen, and express empathy.
Demonstrate Mature Self-Respect
The fear of standing up to a boss is larger than the reality. We tend to respect people who stand up for themselves. By calling the pink elephant what it is you demonstrate several positive attirbutes:
You are willing to stand up for yourself and not be pushed around. You show courage and maturity. You demonstrate that you’ll stand up for your convictions and ethics. You convey an ability to deal effectively with people and that you have leadership potential.
Reshape Another’s Self-Concept
The best defense is a strong offense. The solution to working with and even loving a difficult person is to give them what they crave when they’re not upset. Become a source of psychological nourishment for that person.
Let me tell you about a scenario that happened in the work place but you can adapt this to use at home or in a friendship: A particular restaurant manager often yelled at this one waiter for even the smallest things. In a quite, nonhectic moment, the waiter turned to the manager and said, “You know what I appreciate about you, Mr. Smith? You seem so calm and cool under pressure; I find that so amazing!” Now, the great thing about this is that Mr. Smith recognized himself enough to say, “Well, I do love my cool sometimesÃ¢â?¬Â¦..I am sorry about that.” The waiter was then able to connect with his manager with, “Yes, I guess everyone does at one time or another. You just seem to be in control more than most!”
Now, when the manager saw himself through the eyes of his waiter, and when he felt compelled to yell at the waiter, he stopped himself – because he didn’t want to shatter the image of being someone in control.
To change this relationship even further, the waiter then asked the advice of his manager on something non-restaurant related. They key is that when we offer our advice, we’ve made an emotional investment in someone. As with any investment, we care about what happens to it; we take care of it and don’t abuse it. The yelling came to a complete hault.
Express Empathy Not Explanation
A young mother I know has done a beautiful job with her toddler on creating mutual respect. One day when her little guy acted out under unusually stressful circumstances; the stress got the best of her and she responded in a way that she wouldn’t have normally. Her son immediately turned to her and said, “You hurt my feelings!” She stopped, thought about it and apologized to him, taking responsibility for her behavior and agreeing that it was not the most appropriate response. Then, could mother and son discuss what she expects from him and herself during the next meltdown.
How loved this child must feel knowing that he can take a risk and share his inner thoughts without fear of repercussion. He knew he was wrong, but was secure enough to say, “please do not hurt me when I misbehave.” Imagine the security of being valued, valuable, and safe.