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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"Let me explain", says the codependent.

Reagan said, "If you explaining, you are losing". I know some people may not agree with this blog post and think I'm being too critical, but this is how I see the world.  Anyway, I don't know if it is confidence with age, dealing with a lot of adversity or sometimes physically 'feeling my age', but over time I've realized that I don't have to always explain myself or elaborate.  When I was younger I used to focus too much on explaining where I was coming from to others.  Sometimes it was making sure they understood the point I was trying to make, but other times I realize--in hindsight--that it was justifying my point of view, my perspective or my actions.  As I've gotten older, had a kid, observed others, reflected on my own actions and had others point it out, I've come to realize that I don't need to that anymore.

Before I continue with this line of thought however, I want to share a funny but sad anecdote on this matter.  One time I was at Walgreen's and I asked the clerk if she had a particular item in stock.  After looking a little, she said to me, "I'm sorry it looks like we are out".  Having the dry sense of humor I do, I said to her, "Why do you hate me?".  Obviously, I was implying that it was her fault that I didn't get what I needed and/or that she didn't care.  In short, I was being slightly difficult for humor purposes.  So, she proceeded to explain that she didn't hate me but that the store just doesn't have any of the item in stock.  Of course, I explained to her, that I was kidding.  I think most people in that situation would have recognized my facetiousness.  However, she didn't and instead personalize my comment as something it wasn't: a situation in which she needed to justify herself.  It was a bit of an eye-opener about the extremes of  'needing' to explaining oneself.  Clearly she cared too much about my opinion to note that I was being facetious.

Anyway, like I said, I realize that in life's journey that there are times in which one can over-explain.  I've touched on why I think people do that, but I will expand upon it, the consequences of it and how it can and should be handled differently.  In other words, ironically, I will explain about people over-explaining.  😉

Why (we over-explain)
  • We don't think another is following what we are saying.
    • This can be a lack of confidence as to how well we express ourselves.
    • This can be a condescending attitude towards our audience.
  • We feel a need to justify or get our perspective validated.
    • This can be a defensive pose.
    • This could be a please indicate I'm smart or praise me pose.
  • We lack substance in what we are saying and try to substitute "more words" for "more substance".

What (are the possible consequences)
  • We can expose ourselves.
    • A obvious lack of confidence can cause people to cringe, avoid us or be driven away.
    • When in a 'fight', debate or other type of competition, this can give the other side an edge If they know that you are constrained by concern for what they think, they can use that to their advantage.
    • As lacking substance or knowledge.  
  • We can antagonize others.
    • People can sense when they are being 'over-explained'  to, especially it is a function of  speaker not having confidence of his/her audience ability to follow.
    • This causes either push-back or resentment.

How (can we handle it differently)
  • We can give others the opportunity to connect the dots rather than us fully connecting the dots for them.
    • This can avoid them feeling that we are speaking down to them.
    • This can give them an opportunity to stretch their mind in some cases.
    • If we make it clear that it is safe to ask questions, they can ask us questions if they still don't understand fully.
  • We can remind ourselves that even if we aren't expressing ourselves as well as perhaps we should, that our audience will let us know if they don't understand.  
    • We may find that we have communicated our point effectively despite worrying about it.
    • If our audience is fair-minded, they will give us the opportunity to clarify when necessary.
  • We can say just as much as we need to (and not more)
    • This can avoid leaving the impression to others that we are seeking their approval (and strengthen our hand when dealing with kids or other adults.
    • Often times and audience will tune out if we say too much, but if we say just enough, they can seek out more from us.  This is especially true in dating where saying less can draw the other person who is interested out towards us.
    • It is best to explain what you know and avoid risking sounding foolish trying to explain what you don't
There are times in which it is important to explain ourselves thoroughly such as surgeon explaining precisely what he needs to his surgery team during an operation OR a math teacher going through all the steps when teaching a brand-new concept.  However, I believe that in many cases, people over-explain themselves to point of detriment to a potential love interest, their children, their family, their adversaries, potential supporters, etc for reasons specified above.  I believe that it all can be best summed up in this saying:

A man of many words is a man of few thoughts. A man of many thoughts is a man of few words.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shame: A place we visit, but an unhealthy place to live.

I was talking to a friend recently who was discussing a personal struggle.  Now, the friend didn't let the struggle get the better of him at that time, but it was close.  So, it occurred to me, the situation was like running on a sidewalk and nearly falling on your face, but putting down your hand to break the fall before your head hit the pavement.  Sure, your hand got roughed up a little and needs some first aid, but you could have very easily fallen on your head and ended up in the ER.

The point was not to minimize to the issue, struggle or near failure, but was to let him know that it could have been much worse and not to dwell on or beat himself up over it.  That is instead appreciate that his Higher Power kept him safe and out of trouble.  In the meantime, he could take the near failure as a warning sign and wake-up call to work on his struggles.

I think, as a people it is easy to operate in black and white thinking.  That is, either to blow failures (or near failures) completely out of proportion OR alternatively blow them off.  I believe God gave us a conscience to be aware of our imperfections and need for Him rather than to be used as a weapon to inflict harm upon ourselves or as a speed-bump to be ignored.

I guess I'd characterize legitimate shame that comes with a healthy conscience as a check and reminder for us to be mindful of our spiritual role in family, society and the world at large, but not as a sledgehammer to destroy ourselves.

To summarize, my take on what my Higher Power (God) has revealed to me and reminded me in this story:

  1. Lean on Him, His wisdom and not my own understanding, I should not take it for granted that I have all the answers or strength.  This includes leaning on Him after I make a mistake. 
  2. I am human and therefore I am bound to struggle from time to time and make mistakes.  Not to condone mistakes, intentional or not, but instead to realize that I am a work in progress.
  3. When I barely avoid a bad choice, mistake or screw-up: I shouldn't pat myself on the back for my ingenuity or 'success', but I shouldn't totally destroy myself either.  I should take it as a learning opportunity and be grateful that my Higher Power was looking out for me.
  4. When I make a bad choice, mistake or screw-up:  I should make amends where necessary and possible and reflect on it with contrition.  I should also seek what led to it and use whatever shame I feel from it not to paralyze me, but to motivate me to do whatever I need to avoid the mistake again and/or to make it right where possible.
Anyway, just my thoughts for the day.  As always, it is sometimes easier to give advice than to follow it, but at least putting it down gives me to opportunity to reflect on it myself.

Yours Truly,