Lessons from a Recovering Norwegian Being true to yourself and those around you

As I prepare for a morning talk for a west suburb Rotary, I landed on a Rambling posted back in December, 2016. As I read, it struck me that this Rambling was worthy of reposting……….

December 20th, 2016 –  This is one of my more transparent, personal, vulnerable and honest Ramblings. There is a core message around transparency in this Rambling that I hope will trigger reflection in the event that any of this applies to you, my reader.  

As with most of my Ramblings, this Rambling came about as a result of the newfound enjoyment I have in reading and learning about a variety of subjects. I’ve also become more observant about what is going on around me. Recently, I ran across an article on the different types of conflict and how they can show up in our professional and personal relationships. Whatever differences may exist among the various stresses of life, there is one popular theory that the human body reacts similarly to all stresses by igniting either a “fight or flight response” in an effort to maintain an internal balance. (For those who have followed previous Ramblings, the two different EKGs that I used to have as discussed in the “This could save your life” Rambling is reflective of this theory.)

In the past, for me at least, the fight response would have revealed itself as a snarky (a little strong, but the adjective I will use today) defensiveness and the flight response would have involved ignoring the realities of a situation by retreating into a shell and hiding with shame and guilt. I used to do both depending upon the situation. I could totally internalize something, react in an aloof or guarded manner, or even try to avoid something altogether (a mechanism of the flight response). I have discovered that in fight mode, my past “snarky” or defensive comments caused those closest to me to feel that they needed to “walk on egg shells” if they encountered this response.

Both of these reactions shielded me from meaningful communication and created internal stress, something that is destructive to a meaningful and healthy relationship. I have now come to discover how freeing and wonderful it is in being honest with myself and those around me.

Chasing meaning As a recovering Norwegian, I have discovered that chasing meaning is better for your health and relationships than trying to avoid discomfort. Perhaps there are others out there who can relate to this. (You do not need to be Norwegian to experience this, however in my case, I will place responsibility on my heritage and to a lesser degree my family of origin.)

Recently, while at my ongoing Monday morning men’s group, I was reminded of something that I have learned in the past year: It’s about a trait (a behavior) that I never really understood or practiced to the level that was needed. It is rather shocking to me to accept that I thought I knew this, but never properly refined the skill, or practiced as I do now. This past behavior is something that created a quiet, subtle barrier, an armor, so to speak and tension in meaningful relationships. Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

It is not all about ME or what someone does! The key to meaningful relationships is to really get to know the other person, to really get to know yourself, and to have serious communication (dramatically different than conversations) as to the strengths, traits, habits, needs, support, dreams, beliefs, failures, struggles and values that are critical to yourself and those that are important to the other person. The ability to ask questions and then truly listen to others is a critical and powerful tool. It helps to remove the focus from oneself and instead place more focused and deliberate attention on the other person. For instance, now I say, “Tell me about you” and then shut up and listen intently without judgment! truth

To really get to know another person you need to embrace totally non-defensive, collaborative communication that creates an environment of comfort, trust, and openness. This does not mean you always have to agree on everything. Think about how boring it would be if your closest relationships were based on saying “yes” to everything. You would be basing a relationship on something that wasn’t true and honest. I’ve come to understand we should do our absolute best to respect and honor the other person’s opinions, beliefs and input.

Understanding and respecting other perspectives, opinions, and insights expands our emotional bandwidth, strengthens relationships, and builds a broader learning curve. In the long run, it makes our relationships more interesting, healthy, and fun which is quite different than simply agreeing with another’s perspective. Living a full engaged life and developing meaningful relationships (personal and professional) means we must be true to ourselves and to those around us.

Say what you mean and mean what you say This phrase hasn’t always resonated with me. Sure, it sounds nice but in the past I did not fully digest the words and the meaning. Inot-everyone-is-true lost the substance of what was being said. However, I have discovered how freeing it is to live this mantra.

It pains me to acknowledge my past behavior and failures as they have cost me so much in my personal life. However, I’m excited about what I’ve learned! Change is possible, yet difficult and takes incredible work and desire. Thank you to all who have helped me in developing this ongoing maturity. (You know who are!)

I remember a dinner I had with a couple whose husband I did not know well. It did not take long for him to talk about their son’s challenges and struggles. There was none of the superficial bragging about “the world’s greatest kid” that we’ve all experienced at some level. Rather, it was a fully candid and open discussion and that child and his dad became real to me. As a result, the evening was more relaxing as we all could talk honestly without judgement as opposed to maintaining the superficial “egg shell” of polite chatter.

I have learned that slowing down and chasing the meaning and substance behind real opinions, conflict, stress, comments or feelings is far better for our physical, emotional, and relationship health than avoidance.

In conclusion, there are some key words that I want to briefly react to as I reflect on what I’ve discovered, It’s been an amazing learning curve!

I have discovered that an attitude and life of service, a life that is humble, a collaborative life of not being perfect, of accepting my weaknesses and flaws and living a life of being true to who I am, not who I am supposed to be all helps in building resilience to stress and maximizing life itself and the relationships around me.

How about you?

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