Handling well difficult conversations - People's stories
#2. Coming back on a promise I made
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Introduction - People's stories
All People's stories are written in the 1st person to reinforce their impact.
While anonymity is preserved, all stories are inspired by real facts.
People's stories are examples, to feed you with concrete cases of how the Puzzle has been used. They are not to tell you what to think, or absolute truth: they were created with the intent to illustrate how you can transform your life with the Puzzle.
Each People’s story is presented in the following way:
Part 1. The authentic life experience
Part 2. What that same moment could have been, leveraging the Puzzle
Part 3. Decoding the story through the lens of the Puzzle framework
Part 1 - I am devastated I cannot honor my promise
My son goes to day care a lot, as I work full time. This year, he asked if he could have a break. He has longer days in school, and as he gets older, he argued that he can be more autonomous and could come home in the second half of the afternoon. That I could do some home office, and he would not disturb me. I thought that was a fair request and accepted without thinking further.
Thing is - I share custody with his Dad. So we would have both to organize ourselves the same. Or, he could come home every week - and when it is his Dad’s turn, then his Dad would pick him up here instead of at daycare. I was thinking there are solutions, and as it is for the balance of our son we should be able to find an agreement. But it did not work that way: his Dad refused to have him home earlier, and also refused that he would see me during his week (as he felt he would be confusing and harder for our son).
Fine, I thought. I will just tell daycare that one week my son will come, and the other not! So I wrote them an email, and gave them all the dates where my son would be there - so it would be easier for them to manage. But there again, it did not work. They explained that they cannot customize their schedule that much, as they have hundreds of kids to manage. My son either had to come every week, or not come at all. But one week out of two would not work.
By that point, I had not told my son about these different conversations I was having. I felt this was adult stuff, and he should just enjoy life. Plus he was so happy at the idea of coming home earlier! I was panicking at the idea of telling him it would not work! And my heart was broken too, not to be able to give him the freedom he had asked for. Plus I had failed as his Mum: I promised him something, and I had not been able to make it work! What had I got myself into?? My son would be so disappointed, both in me and for himself!
I could not delay the conversation any further, as school was starting. I was even more stressed than for a big meeting at work!! What would he say?! How would he react?? He first started by pushing back. Even told me that he would run away, that he would not go to daycare on these days. And tried everything he could: he told me I had promised, he told me I had to find another solution because this one did not suit him, he told me he would make himself very little in the house and that he would not bother me at all (which broke my heart!!), he told me I was such a bad Mum for coming back on something I promised, he told me he was so unhappy, etc etc. He really pushed everywhere he could. And all I could say was that he would have to go to DayCare, that it was the only possible way. My heart was bleeding inside, but I had to be strong and firm for him.
The following week, when the day came for him to go to daycare, I was in real stress. I did not know whether he would run away, or how he would be when I would pick him up…. I was such a bad Mum, he would never forgive me!!
And guess what??
It went like a dream. He had understood he had to go, and so he did. All he asked for was for me to come pick him up as early as possible. And that was it!!
While I, on the other hand, felt guilty for weeks!! It would even wake me up at night! It became better over time, and also as my son was OK. But to this day, I am still ashamed when I think about it, and I still regret that I could not make it happen.
You have gained perspective how others have overcome their challenge leveraging the Puzzle!
May it inspire you.
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Part 2 - I am sorry I over promised
My son wanted a break from his daycare, and asked if he could come home earlier a few days a week this year. He explained, with all his heart, that he would behave and let me work from home, that he was getting older and would love a bit more free time at home. Without checking with his Dad or Daycare, I agreed to it! I wanted to please him, plus I felt he had earned this right by being so articulated about it. And I over promised stating that I would find a way to make it work….
As I was walking away, I heard a warning in my head: my Ego was ringing a bell, as I could not commit for everyone. I listened to this little voice in my head, and turned back. It cost me, but I owed my boy to know that it was not only on me to decide. I asked my Ego to help me find the courage for this conversation, and explained the situation to my son. That two other parties would need to agree as well, else it would not be possible. He understood, and also checked that I would do everything to make it work. Which in his terms means “do it”!! I thought it was too early to raise issues, so I confirmed and left it there.
It turned out that, despite all my efforts, neither his Dad nor the daycare facility, accepted my proposals. So I was back to square zero, and even worse: I had to come back to him, and take away from my son something he was very happy about. I felt like I was failing as a parent - which at the same time felt disproportionate compared to what was happening! Maybe I had a Cold Case?
I decided to dig.
Why am I a bad Mum? Because I cannot keep a promise I made. But did I not try to do everything I could to make it happen? I sure did!
So, is this not toning down being a bad Mum? No, because when you commit to something, you do it. Else you do not commit in the first place. When I say would do it, then I do: no excuse stands in the way. Else you cannot be trusted.
And what happens when I cannot be trusted? When people find out, they start avoiding me. And they stop loving me, because nothing I say can be trusted. And they resent me for it.
And what happens when people resent me? Then I lose myself. I no longer know what to say: no one likes the truth, but they don’t want me to continue to lie either!
And why would I lie in the first place? To protect them!!
And does that work? No!! Because they still end up being mad at me, even though I gave them what they wanted to hear!!
But am I sure this is what they wanted to hear?? 100% sure?? Or, if they don’t react being happy, could it be that they might have preferred hearing the truth? It could be….
At that point, I realized that my whole approach of wanting to make the reality nicer and lighter, was not helpful. If my son was big enough to come home earlier, then he was also big enough to hear the truth. That was part of growing up. And good parents are also here to help their kids grow up. I should also trust that he would be able to handle it.
I went for a little walk picking up my son that day, and I made sure I was breathing deeply and slowly. I also asked my Ego to partner with me for the discussion. When I arrived at the school, I was relaxed and ready to have the conversation. I had also decided I would treat my son as my equal in this talk, not to undermine his ability to take the information.
He started pushing back, and tried everything - up to black mailing me he would run away - to make me change my mind. But as I explained the reality, he came down and understood. A lot faster than I thought he would!! It was not at all the end of the world I had imagined for him!! He realized there was no other solution and moved on. I was a very proud mother then!! And I was also grateful to my Ego for helping me stay calm and focused. And grateful to myself for doing it! I discovered that my son was a lot more mature than I thought, and that I was also able to tell him bad news when I had to. And that I would still be here to support him as a parent - but keeping the reality away from him was no longer a good option! Neither for him, nor for me!
From now on, we will face life together. And overcome challenges together.
Part 3 - The Puzzle decoder
Let's decode this People's story with the lens of the Puzzle pieces.
When I am in front of someone I love, and I have to share bad news, it is not easy. I would give anything to make the information go away, and rather please the person.
Up to avoiding to share, or toning it down.
And when I do so, I could end up putting myself in trouble. Because the other person will understand something that is not correct - and possibly resent me for it later on. No matter how hard, when the time is right, I cannot only please someone else: I do need to say what is, so we can together address it.
Being present during that conversation allows me to focus, rather than listen too much to the little voice in my head (my Ego). It also helps me be less emotional and more calm, so I can hear better what the other person says and choose how to best respond.
When my emotions are too much, most likely my Ego is behind it - amplifying them by imagining some scenarios that I need to avoid at all cost!
On the other hand, when I am connected to my emotions, they are not overwhelming. They are signals to let me know how I feel towards a given situation: in addition to my brain, they intuitively help me understand whether I am at ease.
Interestingly too, when I am connected to my emotions they remain at a manageable level. My emotions are here to guide me through a situation, not to take me over. They help me be myself, and position how I feel during the discussion - so I can course correct accordingly.
Protecting myself can be to step up to the other person, and it can also be to realize that I am putting myself in an impossible situation. That I will not be able to do what I am saying. This can happen when I want to please someone and hide the truth, or when I over-commit about what I can do. Soon or later, reality will come out: when I am ready, I should have the conversation and explain what is feasible. Help myself get out of this hole that I have dug!
It is also very common to pollute myself in a difficult conversation. Assume how the other person will react. Anticipate their reactions. Adjust my behavior and say what I think they will do. In the end, it won’t happen this way: I am not in their head, and I don’t know how the other person will react until I am there. And who knows? Maybe they will surprise me! Trust that they will be able to hear what I have to say, and that together we will find a way.
Last, do I believe I am equipped to have such a conversation? Do I trust that I will be able to handle the situation, and the reactions of the other person? If I walk in having faith that I am strong enough to handle the discussion, then most likely I will! Working on my true beliefs and my biases before the meeting, does help cope better with the dialogue.
As a start, do I believe that conflicts can be sorted? Or are they a never ending mess? Do I witness people talking through their challenges, or getting along - or do I rather notice people arguing?
I notice more of what I trust is true, and that does influence my mindset when I walk into the room. It also influences how I will respond to the discussion. Knowing what my deep beliefs are; is thus useful to anticipate how I will react to a difficult conversation.
As I master my life, I choose which conversations I have, and how I want to live them. They might not be pleasant conversations, yet I will be able to deal with the situation. I will be present and focused, I will be calm, and I will be able to step up for myself if needed. And I will find a solution. Everything to be proud of!!