"It was historic!"
I love, love, love my job! I am invited for a while to have a front row seat at people's transformation.
With this participant's blessings -- I'll call her Flo -- I hereby share her story. Mind you, this happened a mere four sessions into the course!
Flo's nine year old daughter was having a melt-down over coloring pencils. Flo couldn't quite make out what the issue was, but HER problem was that the ramen noodles were fresh out of the pot and lunch was served!
Flo recalled what her old self would have done -- complete with wild gesticulations -- but, no, she went a totally different route this time.
Her thought process went like this:
"I knew it was a Conflict of Needs because I was starving but my daughter also had a problem. I understood that I should Active Listen but I remembered Gordon says we need to be in the right place in our hearts to do that. We have to be in the mood! So I asked myself, 'Am I ready to Active Listen? Am I ready to give my attention, my compassion, my presence?'"
The answer was no. "I was famished," she explained, "so I gave myself permission to eat my noodles! Wow, this was radical because usually we would just get into a big fight!"
As Flo was sitting there, her daughter took the key to her room and proceeded to scream from behind the locked door.
Flo said she got up partway through her meal and calmly walked over to give a Confrontive I-Message. She knew she didn't want to Active Listen because lunch was still beckoning yet she refrained from escalating the situation with blame, warnings or threats.
"I'm very afraid of what you might do in there," she said, shocking herself. "My, what an adult response!" Flo still seemed awestruck and the class chuckled appreciatively.
She did slip in a Roadblock solution - "So give me the key please" - but said it so peacefully that it seemed to cause no spike in temperature as her daughter complied.
Flo placidly finished her meal before returning to her daughter's room with a full stomach and more helpful mindset. She rightly congratulated herself on her next "mature" response -- deciding NOT to lecture against locking doors, realizing her daughter was drowning in big emotions.
Instead Flo opened the door to conversation. Her daughter was frustrated about the silver pencils in particular, and about not being able to locate them. Flo unabashedly confessed then that she had a thing for sharpening pencils (more uproarious laughter) and had moved them.
When her daughter accused her, Flo said she didn't get defensive. This, she said, was "historic!" because normally she would lock horns over that "rude" tone of voice.
Instead, she let her speak, reflected back with empathy -- "You REALLY didn't like that I had moved the pencils!" -- and then offered her silence. After a few moments, she invited her daughter, "When you are ready, come on out."
When the little girl emerged, Flo offered her an apology.
"And then," Flo tumbled on to get it all out, "the next day I found myself yelling about something. I hadn't lost control for about two weeks and this was the old me coming back. I realized, 'Wow, my voice is really loud!'" The way she winced and wrinkled her face really just had us all eating out of the palm of her hand.
With a tiny bow, Flo ceremoniously thanked us for listening, declaring that her husband probably wouldn't have the patience for, or get the import of, her tale.
We certainly got it though!
We were SO right there with her because we recognized her dance -- the hopping back and forth on the steps of change -- as our own:
Flo was describing a growing adeptness as she consciously applied the Behavior Window and corresponding skills to accomplish what she wanted to do.
Sure, the following day she had a Consciously Unskilled Episode but she was in good company; we all continue to find ourselves reacting and Roadblocking only now we are better equipped to recognize the old patterns.
Thank you, Flo, for letting us partake in your victory of choosing to pause to ask Who owns the problem? and watching your new skills succeed. Stuff like this IS historic, cause for mighty celebrations and banner-waving!
Gosh, I adore what I do.
Credits: Coloring pencils (http://www.wakeupcloud.com/truths-about-personal-growth/)