Trait: I can control the level of my reactivity so I am able to stay engaged in difficult conversations.
Phyllis: “I hate it when he lies to me, he’s always shading the truth, misleading me or outright lying to me. I don’t trust him and I just want to know what else he is hiding. All my girlfriends think something bad is going on and if it is, I’m done!”
Jim: “When I tell you something you don’t want to hear, I can’t even finish a sentence. You start huffing and puffing and from that point on, I know that anything I say is useless. I can’t really tell you half of what I’m thinking… when I do, you go off and it sucks.”
Phyllis: “WHAT ELSE ARE YOU NOT TELLING ME? I know he is hiding something!”
Jim: (Staring at me with eyes wide open pleading for help) “We have a communication problem.”
Milan: “You don’t really have a communication problem… rather you have a reactivity problem. So let’s begin to understand the origins of reactivity that developed long ago.
Jim, it appears that Phyllis’ reactivity has trained you to believe that it is easier for you to withhold truth, lie, mislead, evade or minimize rather than tell the truth and speak freely. Tell Phyllis a story from your childhood where you learned to appease or avoid conflict. Phyllis: Share a childhood experience with Jim where you felt alone and left out of the loop in your family.”
By the end of the hour, they had each retrieved and shared a story from their families of origin where the seeds of their nasty reactive core pattern were sown. Several months later they were having very different conversations… because their reactivity was less.
Jim was more brave and learned to share truth even if it temporarily derailed Phyllis, and Phyllis was learning how to tolerate differing opinions and learning that “difference” does not equal departure.
How about you? Can you control the level of your reactivity so you are able to stay engaged in difficult conversations? As the Apostle James says,” be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Certainly, good advice for growth toward becoming a secure connector.
Thanks for listening.