Have you ever been given tickets to a front row performance you had no idea you were going to attend? I am not talking about a play, concert or opera….I am talking about a performance taking place between individuals that you share your life with, or work with, or a friendship with. You have chosen to be with these folks when all of a sudden the communication takes a turn for the worse. You can see the facial expressions change, the bodies tense up, and the vocal tone raises an octave as the volume increases. By some twist of fate you are in the front row of a communication performance you would rather not be attending! Unfortunately reality dictates otherwise.
While in attendance of a recent performance I saw the two deadly sins of communication rear their ugly heads and almost destroy the relationship. I realized that the two A’s: Anger and Arrogance communicated in unison are the two deadly sins and will provide a quick path to chaos and destruction. But how did it happen so fast and why didn’t we see it coming so we could do something to prevent it?
What happens to us in the moment when someone says something that triggers our buttons, raises our emotions, and quickens the path of frustration and anger? All our good intentions seem to rush out the door without even so much as a goodbye, when the deadly sins are invoked by us. Yes that’s right I did say “us”…our perception of what the other person says, what we assume, what we believe is true, what we read between the lines….is what makes us go off the deep end.
We give meaning to everything that people tell us and everything we read…meaning that has taken years of experience to decipher, acquire and piece together as our view of reality. Our perception of the world is the world to us, so when someone challenges or jeopardizes our reality we jump into the two deadly sins of Anger and Arrogance. It is survival of the fittest and there is no way we are letting go, no matter what the cost. And so the story goes of relationships where feelings are hurt, tears flow, the association is destroyed, and in the case of family or work relationships, you only deal with the other in absolute necessity or through someone else.
Be aware there is another alternative to bringing on the two deadly sins of Anger and Arrogance. We don’t have to keep attending these performances wishing for a miracle to occur or a portkey to whisk us off to a faraway place. How you ask? The answer is being calm and conscious, aware that you are involved in the interaction without having to sweep you into the rushing river of emotions and possible destruction. It takes two people to escalate the conflict and when one can remain calm, does not raise their voice, even thinks before they respond and can listen to what the other is saying, there is a chance the interaction can deescalate and come back into an actual discussion.
In the moment it is never easy to apply these principles, but if you keep practicing it can become your way of responding to situations and discussions that inevitably come our way. We can learn to respond not react! If we can choose our thoughts and not emotionally react we can keep the two deadly sins from coming in and hijecking our interaction. There are different strategies to help us apply these principles and slow the pace of the conversation down such as:
- be aware of your breathing
- count to 10 slowly
- stop the conversation and ask to continue at a later time when both parties have had time to calm down and think more rationally
- agree to disagree
- stop speaking for a moment and think about who this person is in your life and what they mean to you
- actually listen to the other person
- think of the relationship and if you want it to endure long term
- think about the deeper need this person may be trying to express
Different people have different strategies but I invite you to try a few of them and see what can work for you. The important thing is to minimize your attendance in these performances and recognize the consequences they have on our relationships.
Make a positive impact on others and yourself by developing your communication skills to build effective and respectful discussions and interactions, not ripping them apart. See if you can stop your brain and emotions from invoking the two deadly sins next time you are in the front row to an escalating discussion and create a strategy that works for you. It will be time well spent for you and the people in your life and you won’t be left wondering why you keep purchasing front row seats of a performance you never wanted to attend in the first place!