How to Be Kind When You Have No Patience
I recently had a friend ask me for advice on how she can better share her thoughts when she is frustrated or overwhelmed. She noticed I tend to have good relationships with people and wondered how I don’t lose my cool.
First of all, I have definitely lost my cool. Multiple times. Each time this has happened, while it was a release of energy on my end, it never accomplished much in terms of moving the situation forward. At times it has made matters worse – by closing doors or damaging relationships.
As I listened to my friend tell me how she handled a tough situation, it was all too familiar. She started the call by taking out her frustrations on the other person. Once she had run out of steam, she then tried to engage in a conversation. But by then, you guessed it, the person had put up a wall and shut down.
No surprise. Who wants to help someone who has used them as an emotional punching bag?
Respect before anger
Regardless of how challenging a person is or how annoyed you are by a situation, if you don’t show the person respect, there is no way they will respect you. And it’s hard to have a conversation without respect.
At times it may be hard to find the respect. But with some digging, you may discover you can respect the simple fact that they are giving you their time.
I have often started difficult conversations by stating how much I respect the person for being present and willing to have a conversation that is not easy. I’ve found this simple sentence can disarm many people, breaking down some of the barriers.
Unless you live in a very large city where you never see the same person twice, you will likely have multiple encounters with the people you encounter.
Living on an island, I am very aware of the relationships I have with healthcare providers, educators, therapists and other individuals that support my child or my family. I’m also aware the blow-up to release steam could have long-lasting negative consequences.
After telling the person I respect them, I then talk about how I don’t want this experience to damage our relationship. This not only acknowledges there is a relationship, but also gives a cue that they should be cautious about doing the same.
Honey beats vinegar
At the end of the day, your mother’s saying – you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar- holds a lot of truth.
Going back to my friend, the end result of her unleashing her frustrations on the phone, was no resolution. Not only did she lose the respect of the person she was talking to and damage the relationship but she wasted a lot of time and energy.
Can it be hard to dish out honey? Absolutely!! But if your goal is to come to some sort of resolution or enlist someone’s help, it is definitely worth the effort.
Before you start the conversation, take a few breaths and think of how you can approach the situation with kindness. If the only kindness you can find is to not shout and scream, that’s okay. What’s important, is you consciously think of positive ways to redirect your frustration and anger.
While my advice came a bit late for my friend, she did send an apology email as a way to make amends. She owned her behaviour and apologized for any hurt feelings it caused. This is an important first step in building the relationship.
It’s also important to not beat yourself up over your part in conversations that have gone sideways. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that.
Rather, look back with minimal emotional attachment and think of how you would handle the situation differently next time. How can you show the person respect? What relationships do you need to foster and protect? And how can you dish out honey, even when your hand is twitching to grab the vinegar?