We are sending ourselves messages. Often we don’t receive them until it is too late.
A couple of weeks ago, I had blocked out an entire Friday to write an article for a magazine. Just as I got into the car, my cell phone rang. It was the dentist reminding me of my appointment that was to occur in ten minutes. Because it had been awhile since seeing the dentist, I decided to keep my 8:00 a.m. appointment.
Somewhat frustrated and numb, I returned home to pick up my laptop and head to the library. Big mistake! As I pulled up to my house, it was evident that someone had let my daughter’s rabbit, Chubber, out of his cage. He was bounding up and down and around the front yard with the ecstasy of his new-found freedom. I soon discovered no one was home, so the task of catching him fell to me.
For over an hour and a half, I herded, chased, uttered expletives, and tried to corral the rodent. Out of breath and with my hands on my knees, I chuckled between breaths at what I must have looked like running back and forth in the front yard swearing to myself. Finally at 11:00 a.m., one of my sons showed up from high school to eat lunch and ended up helping catch the dang thing.
Finally, after having lunch with my son, I jumped into the car and headed for my long-anticipated writing assignment. Halfway there, my cell phone rang. One of our clients had given the wrong date for their training materials to arrive at their location. They needed their materials by Monday morning.
Because I had given everyone the day off, I, in exasperation, turned the car around and headed to the printer. I picked up the books, boxed them at the office, and dashed to FedEx station. Finally, I headed back to the library, and, by the time I arrived, any semblance of creativity had long departed.
In quiet contemplation of what had happened to that day, I realized that I had missed the messages that should have been fairly obvious.
First, returning from the dentist, I was frustrated that my plan for an early-start was thwarted. If I had recognized my emotions, I would have realized that this was not what I wanted to be doing. Our feelings are the bridge to self-understanding, and on this day at least, I missed the exit.
Secondly, my choice of words in trying to capture Chubber was the second message that I missed. Indeed, if anyone had heard my speech, I would have been embarrassed. Evidently, I didn’t have enough presence of mind to hear the words I was using and the message they were sending.
Thirdly, the whole fiasco in picking up participant materials, boxing them up, and running them to the local shipper was a message I missed. Not only did it take a long time, but it also led to my exhaustion.
As I reflected on the day, the feelings I had, the words I used, and my actions all signaled me that I was not doing what I really wanted to be doing. If I had recognized the messages, I could have made any number of different choices at any time. My feelings prior to going to the dentist told me I could have rescheduled my appointment. My antics with Chubber told me I could have just left and gone to work. My feelings and actions in the shipping scenario told me I could have asked my son, spouse or an employee to handle the situation rather than do it myself. But I missed the messages. I believe this is how things go more often than not. We become so focused in doing what we are doing that we either ignore or are unaware of the messages that we are sending ourselves or that others are sending us.
Being aware of the dynamics in conversation is important if we want to manage those dynamics and get the results we REALLY want. So the next time you find yourself chasing rabbits, try stopping and then making a conscious, deliberate choice about continuing along the path you are on.
Need help in preparing a difficult conversation? Here you go