I’ve been anticipating that the response I get from a colleague to something I put out is one I won’t like, and when I do receive her response, I’m ready to load my anticipations onto my interpretation of it. As a result, I will react emotionally to what she does say. But just so there’s a possibility of dialogue after the reaction, I will do this in private, waiting until I’m cooled down enough to respond.
Another colleague reads about new requirements that he feels he “should have” caught earlier and didn’t, and he reacts by retreating until he, too, can respond in a more measured way.
It isn’t until I reach out for a one-on-one live conversation that I can put aside my expectations and projections (because that’s all I really have up till now) and gain a truly measured understanding. Similarly with my colleague, it isn’t until he has the conversation – live – that he can really appreciate the reality of the situation.
I know I react. I know I can explode. I know that when I explode, the result is rarely anything but destructive. So I hide behind propriety, keeping my opinions to myself until I can express them in a way that I believe will be more acceptable to those I’m expressing them to.
This seems to be the way of everyone in our society, and is leading to an ever-spreading reaction against “political correctness”. Political correctness gives us the code for being agreeable, and for expressing our anger in a way that is deemed acceptable. But this modern security blanket we use is wearing thin, because just like any security system, it can – and is – used to launch grenades.
We hide in plain sight behind our words and our mask of maturity. We all do – well, most of us – because most of us are afraid of what would happen if we were spontaneous instead.
I grew up believing that I had freedom of speech, that I could say something controversial, or even wrong, and not be punished for it. But in these recent years, that’s changed. My society today isn’t the same comfortable and secure-feeling one of my youth. People – including me – don’t feel secure any longer, right or wrong. And that makes me careful about what I say and how I say it.
I believe that given today’s atmosphere, suggesting we be more spontaneous isn’t helpful or even possible. We need to feel safe to be free with our words and actions, and that simply isn’t true.
I believe that what we can do, and can nurture in others, is real connection. Of deferring judgment – as much as possible – until we can talk. Until we can see that person we have thoughts and judgments about as a human being who is doing their best, just as we are.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .