Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By Susan Esther Barnes
The other night a commercial came on TV. There’s a man in a shirt and tie who gets a phone call from his wife reminding him they’re supposed to have their anniversary dinner that evening, asking him if he’s on his way and whether he made the reservation. The man, who has clearly forgotten all about it, assures her that everything has already been taken care of while he frantically uses his phone to make the reservation and rushes to get ready to leave work to meet her at the restaurant.
I turned to my husband and said, “I’m so glad we’re not like that. It’s so nice to know that in the same situation you would say to me, ‘I’m sorry, I forgot all about it! Hold on a minute while I see if I can make the reservation now.’” We call this our “honesty policy,” and we have found that every time one of us forces ourselves to say something that is scary to admit to the other, it serves to strengthen our relationship.
Interestingly enough, at the same time I had been watching a series of videos posted by the BayNVC, which stands for Bay Area Nonviolent Communication. They state their mission as, “To create a world where everyone’s needs matter and people have the skills to make peace.”
The video series is a role play demonstration which starts with a theme of “Yes and No in the Workplace,” and teaches what to do when you ask someone if they can meet a certain deadline and they say “yes,” even though you’re pretty sure from past experience that the answer is really “no.”
Then there is a caller who phones in a real-life dilemma, and the role players demonstrate how the caller might be able to resolve her conflict in an honest and respectful manner, resulting in a win-win outcome.
It all seems so obvious – just be honest, say what’s on your mind, put all your cards on the table, and make room for the other person to do the same thing. But it’s so easy sometimes to get caught up in fears about potential conflict, how the other person might react, or a desire to “make” the other person just do what we want.
Not to mention how difficult it can be to make room for another person to tell us something we don’t agree with or may not want to hear.
All of this was a good reminder to me of how much I need to continue to work to not only be authentic in my communications with others, but to try to make space for others to be authentic with me as well.
I truly think this world would be a better place if we would all just tell it like it is, and make it safe for those around us to do so as well.