We’ve all danced with the dreaded and all-too-common ABCs: Accusation, Blame, and Criticism. It’s a familiar tango, isn’t it?
Sometimes we do it. Sometimes it’s done to us!
When you deliver an ABC, or better yet, when you sense the temptation —
Consider the timeless questions often attributed to Socrates (you’ve probably heard them):
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it important?
And is it necessary?
All four must be a “Yes,” and if not — let it go!
You might think that “letting it go” flies in the face of my all-important previous advice about taking a stand, speaking up for yourself, expressing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, knowing that they matter, and how important it is for each one of us to be heard, etc.
All of that is still true! I have not changed on that! I still believe that in every cell of my body! However, it also takes wisdom to know when to do that, and when it’s not necessary.
There is also so much to be said about “how” we do deliver an ABC. The energy with which we say it. To whom we’re speaking. The right time and place for it.
Let’s get rid of this one right away: If it doesn’t meet all four criteria, what is important is that you just let it go.
And if it is true, kind, important and necessary, then YES, of course, consider speaking up!, being mindful about “how” you’re doing it.
It’s another story when one of the ABCs is delivered to us.
Especially when it’s not true or when there was a good reason behind our actions.
So then what?
First, consider if it’s true.
If so, apology is due. And if your apology is skillfully crafted (more on that later, too!), the other person will hopefully let it go, opening the door to resolution.
Or maybe there was a nugget of truth you needed to hear. In which case, it has your awareness now, and you can consider a change and prevent a repeat.
Only those who truly care about you provide such honest feedback. So be grateful for the gift!
And of course, the “gift” is easier to receive if it was delivered well!
There is an art to delivery!
(Another “more on that later!”)
If it’s inaccurate or there was a misunderstanding, that’s another story. And then what?
One option is to defend ourselves, explain and say why it’s not true.
Keep in mind that while it is important and essential to stand up for yourself, this could be the time to choose your battles.
A part of me, when misunderstood, craves to be understood, driving my need to explain. It can sound like being defensive. If the other person has their heels dug in, they’re unwilling to listen or understand and insist on their perspective, this could easily incite or inflame them.
In which case, this may not be the time to be understood!, or to tell your side of the story.
It’s also important to recognize that “standing up for yourself” does not mean to retaliate, lash out or engage in a tit-for-tat. That’s when things rarely end well; it becomes a back-and-forth on who did what wrong first.
As you know, we can’t change others; we can only change ourselves.
Guess what that means?
Let’s go back to the fourth Socratic questions “Is it necessary?”
Here’s where a change might come in!
Often — and this may be a change worth considering —
…it may not be necessary.
Not necessary to speak up, not necessary to be understood (in this moment!), not necessary if it might offend.
Yes, even though it’s important to stand up for yourself, even if there’s truth to your point of view, and in spite of your longing to be understood, this just might be the time to let it go.
Even so, easier said than done.
Given the numerous opportunities I’ve had to deal with difficult people who seem to thrive on criticizing others, I’ve had a lot of practice. And it has become easier.
So if this happens to you, here’s what I suggest:
Feel the pinch.
Ask yourself the Socratic questions. Is it true, kind, important and necessary?
I suggest you add this fifth question: “Is now the right time?”
If it’s true, kind, important and necessary, is now the right time?
If the answers to all five questions are not all a big YES, then let it go. At least for now!
What happens next is far better than clinging to the need to be understood or the need to be right.
As family and friends gather together this season, old wounds may surface more easily and more often than other times of the year. So keep this in mind — during the holidays and on all days!
Wishing you a season of ease and joy in all of your relationships!
Writing this is giving rise to something in me!
You’ll find out what that is if you stay tuned for “The Art of the Apology,” “The Pendulum Learning Curve” and “Delivery of the ABCs”!
Give this tip a try!
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