Harsh words: Gift or Swords?
I currently have a front row seat to a train wreck between friends. “Susie” just had the jarring experience of hearing exactly what “Jenny” honestly thinks of her. She got told off. In detail. Thanks to the miracle of merlot, it came out pretty much totally raw and unfiltered. Unfortunately, every ounce of it was dead on accurate. Even wine doesn’t change facts.
Consequently, Susie was furious and offended. She dismissed every single thing Jenny said to her. Her new mantra was “I don’t need haters in my life!”.
So last week, I called Susie. I wanted her to see that Jenny’s harsh words were actually a gift – not swords. This was an invitation for Susie to take a hard look at herself and seek to understand where these things might be true for her. Much of this had its roots in old wounds that were bleeding uncontrollably into other areas of her life. If she dismissed them, they would stain her world – damaging the very things she held dear to her.
Things are only bad when we don’t like what is being said. If we take the ego’s reaction away, we oftentimes find that harsh words – as jarring as they may be – can be powerful insights to make us look at things that are holding us back.
We have to own our own stuff; even the ugly stuff. Christine knows she can confront me with things that I don’t want to hear. No matter how much I disagree and resist, I have learned to seek to understand where her insights are coming from. And oftentimes, I end up agreeing with her. She helps me see my own truth, which I don’t always like.
Dismiss it or fix it – It’s my choice. Fixing it has made me a better person every time.
I know we all want a complaint-free world. But people complain – and thank god they do. Sometimes complaints are totally legit. Recently I gave feedback to a manager at a restaurant about a pattern of waiters who were chronically confused/drugged/distracted by imaginary unicorns. Yes, it was a complaint. But it was also impacting her business. Saying something was a gift that granted her the chance to fix it. If I were the owner, I would rather hear brutally harsh feedback than have my business die and not know why.
If people tell me how perfect I am, I have zero motivation to change or grow. In my business, complaints are always gifts that push me to figure out how to do things better. I’ve never improved anything by just having my ego stroked. So I welcome feedback – and I don’t care if it is a complaint or negative feedback.
I’m learning not to see things as “good” or “bad”. I love the concept that everything in life is simply a tool. The same hammer can be used to build a home or assault a person. A flower can bring beauty or allergies. The tool itself is neutral; how we use it is what changes our experience of how we feel about that tool.
Words are tools. They can be swords or gifts. It’s our choice how we receive them. I choose gifts.
Karen Kaye – December 10, 2014