That “but” is a killer.
I guess I could say–and, so I will–that it is a pain in the butt!
For most folks, everything that comes after the ‘but’ is absorbed, and anything good that came before it simply disappears. We are so good at hearing the downside, looking for the faults, waiting for the other shoe to drop…especially if we are having relationship problems.
So, when we hear,
“I love you, but…,” we are pounced and ready to take on the ‘but’.
Are we looking for a blow to our self-esteem or are we looking for a fight? That’s a good question. Sometimes, it seems it’s both. How is it for you?
In one of my classes recently, I was using the example of thinking about someone making a judgmental remark about you as being similar to someone throwing a javelin at you. You can see it coming. What are you going to do about it?
Some people rush out and stick it into their hearts.
“I know you’re right. I’m a bad person. I’m worthless. My taste in clothes is terrible and my choice in partners is worse. I’m a mess.”
Others stand their ground and let the javelin hit them.
“See what you’re doing to me. I can take it. You’re not going to bowl me over. There’s nothing you can say or do that will make any difference to me. And, you know you’ll pay for what you just did.”
And, the wise ones IMHO, simply step to the side, let the javelin fall on the ground, and ask a question:
“I’d like to know what’s behind that and how you’re thinking. I’m curious. Tell me more.”
Why do I think the latter is the best choice?
Because a person making a judgment, passing a rude remark, or being thoughtless while opening their mouth, is making a decision that has nothing to do with you. What they are giving is information about who they are, not about who you are!
If you can practice stepping to the side and not engaging when folks go on javelin-throwing rampages, you’ll be calmer, wiser and more informed. And, you’ll learn more about the thrower. That will help you know who you truly want to be around and whether or not they are willing to have dialogue with you.
No matter with whom you are experiencing relationship problems, you can use this tip to learn about the other person while maintaining your own center.