I recently had a conversation with a friend who was quite upset. Her sister had just become engaged and she was struggling with her feelings about the news. Her sister had informed her of the engagement through a text message, when it had really merited a phone call and a nice conversation. However, this relationship has had issues before this new turn of events.
Not only was Mary (not her real name) angry about the way she had been informed, but she was also livid that her sister had picked the exact same style and venue that she had for her wedding that had ended in a broken engagement. Mary believed that her sister had made this choice on purpose. When she called her sister to share her anger about the situation, the conversation quickly went downhill, ending with the bride-to-be sharing that she didn’t expect her sister to show at her wedding.
I spent the next 40 minutes on the phone: First, validating her feelings and then helping her see that this decision was not necessarily made to hurt her. I then reminded her that even though she might be partly right, this really wasn’t about being right or wrong.
I informed her that she had a choice; she could either make the time until the wedding ceremony chaotic and negative or she could rise above all the drama and handle the situation with grace. I asked her to consider which one she would like as her legacy— her behavior would be etched in everyone’s memory for eternity.
The other day, I had a conversation with a woman, working out some business issues. There were numerous times during the conversation where her tone and attitude could be discerned as condescending and inappropriate. During the whole process, I spoke calm and kind, yet firm in my beliefs. When I got off the phone, I relayed the experience to my husband. “You shouldn’t have accepted that whole attitude”. I disagree.
I had a choice as to how I would handle the situation. I felt totally in control and was capable of holding my own. However, during the interaction, I kept calm and gave it thought. What do I want to accomplish in this conversation? What do I have to gain by being gracious and what do I have to gain by letting her have it?
You might be thinking, “What do I have to gain by being gracious when I’m clearly in the right?” Consider for a moment that it might not be about who is right and who is wrong. We often get stuck on this point. However, if you can get past the emotions of anger, frustration, and hurt and focus on what you want the outcome to be, you’ll be on the right track. Don’t look at the short-term gain but consider what you want for the long-term in your life. Maybe you need to swallow your pride and do what’s best for you and others in the long run. Words said in anger can haunt you for many years to come.
I was speaking with a client today who had difficulty doing just that— holding her tongue and considering the consequences. She took me through a scenario at work, ending with her realization that she had nothing to gain by showing her anger with her co-workers. For the first time, she was able to think through the situation, have empathy for other’s behavior, figure out her strategy and make the wise choice of having grace. What a confidence builder!
I hope you make the decision to approach your life with the same degree of grace. Frankly, it’s never too late to change your ways.