You Know What I Should Have Said?

We can probably all think of a time when our over-the-top politeness got the better of us. Someone was rude to us, but we were afraid to “make a scene,” hurt their feelings, or insult them. Or maybe someone standing next to us told us to be quiet, and we listened. Or our opinion was dismissed as “wrong,” and we let it be. We walked away and fumed, “You know what I should have said?”

Same thing, only more serious: a few years ago, Isabella, her husband and their two kids, ages 3 and 5, were on vacation in Florida and decided to take a walk on the beach after dinner. It was a beautiful night with a gorgeous sunset, and they were just enjoying being together and watching the kids collect shells and play near the water. Isabella says that the memory of what happened next still scares her.

Two huge brown and black dogs came out of nowhere and ran toward the kids, barking. The owners were nearby, and Isabella’s first (and best) thought was to yell to them, “Do they bite?” but she hesitated because she didn’t want to seem “rude.” Fortunately, she caught herself, and as she and her husband started to run toward the kids to shield them, she screamed, “Do they bite?” “No, it’s okay,” the owners yelled, not giving a moment’s thought to the fact that their enormous dogs had scared the heck out of everyone.

“What if,” Isabella asks herself every time she remembers this story, “my kids were really in danger, and I hesitated to protect them out of politeness? I can’t even imagine being able to live with myself.”

It’s not okay for someone to put us or the people we love in harm’s way, take our ideas, attack us, blame us for things we have nothing to do with, be rude or insensitive to us, ignore or exclude us on purpose, or offend our ethnicity, gender, or religion.

It. Is. Not. Okay. Ever.

And that means that when these types of behaviors come our way, polite-“no problem!”-“feel free to do that again!” tolerance isn’t the best response.

Should have said

We have a range of choices about how to respond when someone is being thoughtless, unfair, or rude to us:

Walking away. On the outside, saying nothing and walking away may look passive, but when we walk away from a combustible situation, not out of politeness or fear of confrontation, but out of strength, we actually show some mega-power.

Our internal conversation goes something like this:

  • “This situation is beneath me. I’m not going to involve myself in it.”
  • “I have better things to do with my time.”
  • “This situation just isn’t worth the energy it would take to resolve it.”
  • “I’m not going to explain or defend myself to this person.”
  • “I can’t make this a priority in my life right now.”
  • “This person isn’t going to change based on what I say right now. Not worth it.”

Speaking up. Sounds like this:

  • “That’s not fair.”
  • “I don’t agree with that.”
  • “That’s really offensive to me.”
  • “We were supposed to talk an hour ago. I’m upset about having to wait.”
  • “I wasn’t copied on that email. I felt left out.”
  • “I was hurt when I wasn’t invited.”
  • “You’re really making me uncomfortable.”

Kindness. Wait—this is not a sappy, yes-it’s-okay-to-walk-all-over-me kindness, but a choice that comes from strength and the goal not to escalate a situation, and it can be a good option in a tough situation.

A while ago, I was on a call with someone who was being, let’s say, aggressive. She wanted a favor but was in a hurry and seriously impatient with the questions I needed to ask her. At one point she even ended the call on me.

But no matter how aggressive she was, how impatient, I just kept calmly asking my questions. When she hung up on me, I called her back and kept the conversation going. It was hard! But after a while, she started to change. There was no hostility coming from me so there was nothing for her to push against. In the end, her tone was really different. She even told me how much she appreciated my help and apologized for giving me a hard time.

When we don’t react to aggression with aggression, rudeness with rudeness, insults with insults, even if we’re right and the other person is clearly wrong, a situation can’t get worse. We’re putting our foot on the brake so to speak. So it may be worth taking a breath, not reacting to hostility with more hostility. Then sit back and watch a bad situation lose its steam.

Give bad feelings their moment…then keep moving!

Excerpt from Dream Come True: How Love, Gratitude, and Simplicity

Can Bring Your Beautiful Dream to Life!

 

You know that feeling you get around someone who’s positive all the time—no matter what’s happening? That eyerolling “oh please” you just can’t hold back? It’s because it’s not possible to be totally positive all the time. We just can’t take someone seriously when they wish us a happy first day of Spring or they won’t admit that getting fired is NOT “the best thing that could ever happen to you!”

Inside we know: pretending everything is great when it is so not or that something doesn’t bother us when it so does isn’t living happy, healthy, and sane. That stuff we keep sweeping under the rug just turns into a giant lump we trip over every time we try to cross the room.

And that’s a good thing because denying bad feelings is denying a part of us. It leads to incredibly unhealthy thinking like, “I shouldn’t feel this way” and “This is so stupid—why am I thinking this?” Do you hear the self-recrimination in these statements, just for what comes naturally to us?

Be honest

Denying feelings is denying a part of ourselves—a part baked in from the moment we were born. Denying feelings makes us feel weird and guilty for having them and that hurts our dream quest. That’s why serious dream-seekers don’t do this! We don’t beat ourselves up and try to surgically remove honest bad feelings and replace them with plastic positive ones.

Bottom line: we will NOT be happy, healthy, and sane if we’re NOT honest, first with ourselves, and then because it will be impossible to keep our buckets of joy to ourselves, with everyone around us.

Stop struggling to erase bad feelings. They are real. They are part of you. They are totally natural and normal.

Onward!

Give them their moment: acknowledge your frustration or anger or disappointment, think it through, find the source, learn something about yourself. Maybe vent to someone you trust or get it all out in a journal, but then drop it, focus forward and get constructive, like this: “Okay, so knowing what I know now, next time, I’m gonna…”

Boom shakalaka!

Anything else is a conscious decision to let bad feelings run the show.

Um, that’s gonna be a hard pass.

Our dreams are too beautiful for this.

Beautiful is better than perfect

A long time ago, I think I must have been 9 years old, I overheard someone describing a piece of music. “It’s not beautiful,” she said in a tone that made it clear this was not a compliment. “It’s perfect, but it has no heart. So perfect, yes, just not beautiful.”

For some reason, this stuck with me, and I think about it all these years later. That a piece of music (or anything or anyone) can seem perfect, but lack something that makes it fall short of beautiful. That there are important differences between perfection and true beauty that make striving for perfection not worth it.

Beauty is layered in meaning and intriguing, the way someone’s crooked smile or weird ideas make them attractive and interesting. Or the way we can’t stop staring at an abstract painting in vivid but mismatched colors and misaligned textures. Beauty is boundless confidence in a person whose physical attributes would never get them a magazine cover. It’s the sexy, fashion-forward outfit rocked by someone you’d expect to see in sweats and flats. Or ocean-deep humility in someone so insanely talented that they could rightly brag about their accomplishments for days but would never dream of it.

For all these reasons, real beauty is in the unexpected, and less (even far less) than perfect can be incredibly beautiful.

This means the less perfect we are, the more mistakes we make, the more beautiful we become. The more interesting, the more complex. It means that we are more beautiful with time and experience. We gather strength, grow in character, and earn wisdom through every mistake, every should have said.

We have to remember this in tough situations that don’t go well. The less perfect we are, the better we’re getting: smarter, stronger, and more beautiful through every experience.

“Your vibe attracts your tribe”

I saw this on a T-shirt someone wore to barre class the other day.

I love it.

Because it’s true: our vibe, as in the way we live, our attitude about everything that happens to us, our willingness to cut people some slack when things don’t go well…all of this determines our tribe—the people who surround us.

So is our tribe kind, generous, empathetic, positive, hopeful, and happy? Depends on us, on how we interact with the world.

How—exactly?

When things don’t go well with someone and we let it go, maybe give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re just having a bad day, then there’s a really good chance they’ll do the same for us when we need it.

When we cover for someone who makes a mistake, maybe even by fixing it for them behind the scenes so no one ever finds out about it, next time we make a mistake, we’ll look up and find ourselves surrounded by people who are covering for us.

When we talk in positive, hopeful terms about life, the world, and the future, we’ll have a lot in common with people who do the same, and no so much in common with people who don’t. We’ll look around and realize we’re surrounded by the positive crowd: the people we have more to talk about with.

When we’re kind people, our love and understanding will eventually make anyone trying to be mean to us feel uncomfortable or out of place. They’ll have only one choice: be nice or be gone. Again, we’ll pick our head up and realize we’re surrounded by nice people. That’s not an accident or a coincidence.

The idea here is that our gentle vibe opens a channel of love and positive experiences that flows in both directions: out from us but also back toward us.
Beautiful someone, when we’re kind, understanding, and generous, or world is filled with kindness understanding, and generosity because those are the qualities of the people we attract.

This doesn’t mean that cruel people won’t enter our lives—they will, guaranteed. It just means they won’t stay because they won’t feel at home next to us.

We won’t grouse with them.

We won’t fight with them.

We won’t react to their cruelty.

Will this take a strong stomach? Sometimes, yeah. Especially when we’re tired or stressed, or just not ready to deal. But it’s a choice we make—a strategic choice, the long game—to create our lives. That means no one is allowed to hijack our day, week, month, year or happy, healthy, sane life by pulling us into a sticky web of negativity, anger, or fear.

And you know what? Not only will our vibe attract our tribe, it may even change people. They may see ours as a tribe they want to be part of.

Maybe sometimes our vibe creates a tribe?

Imagine that. Cool.

No more itchy labels

One of the world’s greatest innovations took place not too long ago in the fashion industry. Quietly behind the scenes, a truly brilliant person or design team came up with idea to stop sewing those itchy labels into the collar or waste band of our clothes and instead to just stamp the information somewhere on the inside fabric.

I don’t know about you, but before this innovation, every time I bought clothes my first order of business was to cut out those stupid itchy labels the minute I got home.

This is like that—like stupid itchy labels we need to cut out.

Labels keep life simple:

  • It’s a BOGO sale on shoes. Bring your discount card.
  • Thursday night is Open House.
  • Luggage over 50 lbs. costs more to check onto a flight.
  • He’s a graphic designer.

But things aren’t always simple:

  • If I miss the BOGO sale, can I still use my discount card?
  • Who will be at the Open House and what’s going to happen there?
  • What if my luggage is 50.5 lbs.? Can I still get the lower rate?
  • Is he good at digital design?

In the middle of everything we have to do, when our time is stretched paper thin, we want the quick, easy, slap-on label or answer even when it doesn’t technically fit, so we can check that thing off our list, and move on to whatever is screaming for our attention next.

Extremes
Easy labels tend to be extremes: people are “great” or “awful” situations are “perfect” or “terrible” opportunities are “exciting” or “a total waste of time”…only highs and lows, winners and losers. Gray areas and details take thought and time we just don’t have.

The other day, my friend Janine got scorched by a client who told her, “Look, the speech you wrote for me was awful. I can’t use it. I’ll rewrite it myself.” No way was the whole speech awful—Janine’s got 10 years of experience, and she’s good—but it was easier for him to slap an “awful” label on the whole thing than it would be to take the time to parse the good parts from the ones he wanted to change.

The chance to change
And though clear labels keep life organized and easy (I mean think of the chaos if we had “STOP-only-if-you’re-in-the-mood signs” or prescription labels that said, “Take twice a day-ish,” they can be really dangerous when it comes to us. They can make us feel stuck:

  • “I’m so unorganized.”
  • “I’m always late.”
  • “I can’t dance.”
  • “I’m a bad cook.”
  • “I’m just a bookkeeper. I could never do anything else.”
  • “I have a bad temper.”

None of these are permanent conditions. None of them. But if we say them often enough, and we allow other people to say them about us, or we agree with them, they sure sound permanent.

The truth is, beautiful someone, easy labels are wrong, or more precisely, they may be true today, but they’re not permanent conditions. There’s always a chance to change. You may be unorganized today, but you can fix that with some folders and a label maker. So you’re not a great cook? Buy some cookbooks and take a class. Can’t dance? Everyone can dance. Sick of bookkeeping? Start looking for another job. Philosopher and poet Søren Kierkegaard once said, “When you label me, you negate me.” Exactly. So let’s not.