ON ARTICULATING NEEDS: SMART CRITERIA (part 2)
Here is why "OJ" popped into my head.
I was talking to my depressed friend. I still worry about her. We were talking and I started feeling so frustrated. I initially went into things willing to listen, to be a Safe Ear. But I got a defensive prickly person accusing me of being/doing things I am not doing in the conversation. VERY defensive. I felt my own hackles go up in defensive mode.
Ms Emotion kicked in with:
- What the hell? Am I not offering to LISTEN here? If she's gonna devalue my willingness and my time, why do I bother to offer to listen as a friend?
My own temper got riled up. Then I chose to breathe and let it go. This is my hurting friend. She's lashing out in her hurt.
Ms Logic kicked in with:
I went with those top 3's since they floated up first. But it was challenging.
Other than "Just be an ear" I did not get any direction from her. She did not specify that the HOW mattered to her -- how she wanted me to be an ear. "Be an ear. And be it like THIS" would serve her better if she could actually articulate her needs more clearly.
I defaulted to my own style of Ear-ness. Then I had to listen to her tell me how I'm not listening right. Do not do this, do not do that.
(Inside Meta voice From my POV -- it would be a lot easier if you tell me the HOW of "Be Ear" for you. WHAT TO DO! I am trying to platinum rule you, that is best. Treat you how YOU want to be treated. When you give no information on that, then I have to go Golden Rule -- treat you how *I* like to be treated as the next best guess then.
GOAL: I'm trying to treat you kindly and compassionately when you are flooding and having a tantrum. I am sympathetic, I've had emotional flood before too. I am trying to reach the Understanding Place.
ASSESS: You, madam, have no idea where you are trying to reach in this communication. Work with me here, lady! Ugh.)
I didn't say that out loud. It wasn't the time. But I still felt like I carted all sorts of metaphorical drinks about trying to satisfy her request of "Listen" when I don't even know she wants a beverage. Maybe she wants a listening burger and not a listening milkshake? She doesn't even know. And that's just the vehicle -- we are still not getting on to the THING.
Her communication was not clear. It left bits outs. I was trying to reach understanding. What do you DO with a person like that? Try to get the clarify.
She was hogging the floor and not letting me get a word in edgewise. When I could, I prompted her with "And?" like "please continue, tell me more and elaborate that point please" and she launched into new fusspot about how I was dismissing her and her problems.
I did not say "So what?" I was not dismissing her. She assumed
I was dismissing her. She was confused and did not ask me for a clarify. If she had? I would have said "AND. Like tell me more on that... continue. And then what happened?"
That poked my buttons. Dealing with an assuming person complaining about people assuming things. Ugh. Again I had to put my own emotional response aside.
Though she did not ask, and I wanted to withold comfort from her because she was dinging me? I offered the clarify myself. "I don't mean it like that. I mean "And keep on telling me. What happened next? AND?"
She paused. And she kept going. Filling in the missing gaps. I chose to not use "And" as the prompting word. I went with "Ok... keep going..." for directional tether.
Being Undefined Ear? It's HARD to be present and be with someone who is SOOOO hurting they lash out indiscriminately. We are willing to do this with babies and toddlers. With adults, less willing. We expect them to handle themselves a bit better. Exhausting to tiptoe around eggshells but still trying to get the sense of where this is all at because the person does not communicate clearly. But even adults get themselves in a tizzy.
To be compassionate? Back off. Go with the known. I knew she wanted me to listen. So I listened. It felt like a different highway but I know
this highway ride. Not just from my own flooding experiences.
When I ride the Alzheimer Interstate with Dad I know just ride and wait for the next appropriate exit and try to steer him there. If he doesn't bite, wait and try at the next exit. It could take a few exits before we get to come off the Alz Interstate. Just... be patient. Keep trying to change the channel.
My friend was riding the Emotional Flood Interstate. I had to sit and wait and try to give direction tether for how to step off.
Can't add that layer of feedback right now either -- about her communication style being weak and not serving her needs. If she could improve that, and make her needs known more clearly, maybe they'd be met more often by the people she requests at.
But she's not in a hearing place herself, where she can be receptive. Because then the defensive person clams up even tighter. Perceiving that they are being "judged" for having their feelings. Assuming all kinds of wacky.
Rather than perceiving that it is being offered as feedback on the communication style with which they express their feelings.
I cannot tell her that she isn't going to get her needs met (validate my feelings!) because she cannot speak her feelings "right." There's other cues for me to pick upo on to see her upset.
I'm not going to dangle candy and not offer. That's not compassionate. That is mean. We can work on smoother interstate road later -- right now just get on with it. Find the exit.
I decided to just listen and let whatever go on by. Just go for VENT & VALIDATE and not bother with VENT, VALIDATE, AND IDENTIFY PLACES FOR IMPROVEMENT. A multi-step thing wasn't gonna fly here today. And whatever gets dumped out -- I don't have to pick up that baggage in the unload. Just... unload. I ignored all the places she was not being logical. She was not in logical mode. She was in emotional mode. Feelings dumping out make no sense. Sort logic later. Just dump NOW. Hopefully she can stop seeing red. Then go back thru the rubble later.
She was still kinda prickly but eventually the quills vent down and some deep, deep sadness came out. It was palpable.
And it came out because I sucked it up -- this lashing out prickly business, my own emotional grr. And validated her feelings where possible. Clarified that I was not dismissing her, I was saying "And?" for her to keep it coming. Information still needed for me to see the whole picture. She finally felt safe enough to let it out. And express that horrible sadness.
I don't even know if venting was enough. I hope it was enough for NOW and that she feels better for the unload. Holding that yucky in is not healthy. I hope unloading some leads her to more permanent solutions for managing her best healths here.
But somewhere in that conversation I started to think "Good grief. She does not see where what she wants here is just not a realistic expectation. She is unwilling to let it GO, this unrealistic want. Until that happens? Hello, more suffering later. Sigh." She is not at that vantage point. Too many trees. Cannot yet see the forest.
She tells herself she wants OJ, and wants just keep trying to GET the OJ. She's unwilling to see that OJ? Cannot be had here. They don't sell that here. This is a limit. So she's exhausting herself running around try to get milk, vodka, tea, whatever.... trying to make it do the work of OJ in a zone where OJ will just not be had. She's trying to reconcile things (her OJ want) with limitations (OJ not sold here) by FORCE. Make OJ appear out of thin air.
That dead horse won't fly. She's so deep in the stink she cannot see.
So what do I do? What can I do? Other what what I already do? I listen. Let it be where it is and see if Time can do the work that I cannot. Because if nothing else, Time can bring a new point in Time. Maybe things will look different to her from that vantage point. Maybe not.
Only Time can tell.
And on my end? All I can do is choose to spend the time there with her. Supporting in appropriate ways. Listening.
Maybe someday when she is calmer we can talk about OJ and getting it in SMART ways. But that comes after
discerning it is even sold at this store. Sigh.
I hurt for my friend. I care for her. But this is not my battle. It is her inner conflict thing only she can resolve inside there.