Step Away From Your Weapon!
I find it so fascinating how, even though many of us speak the same language, we can interpret what is said in such a wide variety of ways – especially when the communication is in a written form, like an email or in a social media post.
Yesterday my husband and I were having a disagreement about my son’s school holiday break. Between the two of us, we have either personally attended or sent our kiddo to schools in 6 different states and have never run across Memorial Day weekend warranting a 4-day break from school. In our experience Monday was always the day everyone took off – so we couldn’t figure out why our son’s school here in NY was different. We each had our theories, and strangely dug in about being right, so I decided to take our question to our village’s (yes, I live in a village!) Facebook page to settle our dispute.
My question simply read: “Quick question: Is the reason our kids are out on Friday because of the Memorial Day holiday (which was my understanding) or is there some kind of in-service day that the teachers are doing in preparation for next year (which was my husband’s argument)? A four-day holiday seems unusually long for Memorial Day….”
Holy smokes. My simple question seemed to hit a nerve because a torrent of responses showed up (very few really addressing the actual question). There were responses celebrating the 4-day weekend, there were responses publicly shaming people for not having the dates on their calendar as they’ve been published for a full year, there were comments insisting people “suck it up”. It became a working-mom vs. a stay-home-mom debate. The emotion ran high with WORDS ALL IN CAPS highlighting points that were being made. My post clearly hit a nerve.
Which hit my nerve.
And then all night, I stewed. I felt judged and misunderstood.
Now here’s the deal. It was just a question. At the time I wrote the question, there was no condemnation or judgment attached, I was simply trying to settle a disagreement. But how the question was received, stemmed from whatever the readers’ past experiences had been and what their current situations might be – mine included. Really, in truth, there’s nothing right or wrong about a 4-day weekend. No perspective is more enlightened than another. They are all valid.
So why the heightened emotion? Why the need to make one person’s experience wrong to elevate another? Why can’t we find a way to appreciate the different perspectives around us?
I would love to tell you I have all the answers, but I clearly don’t. I got triggered too.
And I think that’s how it happens. Something is asked or said without agenda, and it triggers something, that triggers something, that triggers something, and all of the sudden the conversation that is taking place in no way reflects the original intent. Once the triggers start going off, it becomes a full-scale emotional battlefield in which there are no winners.
Think about how this plays out in the work place. How we misread each other. How we make meaning where there is none. How we react – whether it is visible to others or not – to our own triggers.
Because we all have them.
And I think maybe that’s the place to start. To realize that the triggers are ours to own. And as we feel our heart-rate increasing, our jaws clenching, and our fingers tingling with the impulse to right whatever wrong we may have experienced, how can we re-wire our brains to look at those body-sensations as a cue to step away from the trigger rather than an invitation to engage in the war?
Because one thing is for certain, it’s a lot harder to jump out of the battle unscathed, once you’ve fired your weapon.
©OnStage Leadership, 2014
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Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop.