Handling well difficult conversations - People's stories
#3. You stole from me
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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 - why did you steal from me?
Sometimes families are complicated! And some members of mine do fall under this category!
We have a small family, and my Mum died before my grandparents were able to split their possessions with their two daughters. And so when my grandmother passed away, my Dad and his sister in law inherited. My grandmother had left bonds in a safe, and four bars of gold buried in the basement: one for each of her grandchildren. As these were in the family for years, they were not recorded anywhere.
One day, my Dad called my sister and I: he shared that my Mum’s sister had taken all the gold and all the bonds. They already were not on good terms, and so when he confronted her she denied fully, and had refused to talk to him since.
Although we were not too close, as I was the only one to have some sort of relationship with my Aunt, I felt it was up to me to have that discussion with her. I could not imagine that she would take money away from my sister and I, the more so as she had plenty! Plus in the memory of my Mum, I could not see that happening!!
So I got invited to their house. And while I walked in annoyed by the whole story, I was also of the mindset that this was a simple misunderstanding, and that it would be easy to clarify it! They had me for lunch, and everything went nicely. We were chit chatting, and somewhere it felt that we were avoiding the topic… So as the coffee came, I took a deep breath and asked what had happened to the savings of my grandmother. My Aunt opened big round eyes, and told me that indeed my Dad had accused her of taking money from the safe. But the safe had been emptied a long time ago by my grandmother, therefore there was nothing she had taken from there… My heart was beating really hard. I had no evidence whatsoever that something had been left in there. I was losing my breath. I really thought she was lying, but how could I prove it? What could I say??
I insisted that my grandmother had told me she had left money for everybody in there, and that she really had not been spending much these last years…. But my Aunt maintained, loud and clear, that nothing was in that safe.
I noticed she was getting annoyed, while I was really taken by surprise by this conversation! I really thought that she would treat my sister and I just like her own children. That she would be fair to everyone…
I tried to gather myself together and then asked about the gold. That she could not deny we had gold, because we were all there when my grandmother shared the information. Indeed, she did not deny. She did worse. She looked at me in the eyes, and told me that on her deathbed, my grandmother told her to take everything because she felt we had enough. I just lost my voice hearing that. I could not believe that my grandmother had done such a thing: she always loved her four grandchildren equally. Plus my Aunt always had more money than us! As I brought it up, she repeated herself and added that my grandmother had helped my parents more, so it was probably why she said what she said.
All of this was a very polite and civil conversation. I will always remember the setting. And how surreal it felt.
I left the house shortly after, empty handed. I was so much taken by surprise and by the magnitude of this lie in my face - that in the moment I was not even angry. It was only after that anger came!! How cowardly of her to blame my grandmother!! To put her story in such a way that we could doubt her, and would never be able to verify the information. My sister and I would never be able to prove anything. She just stole money from us. Her family. The daughters of her beloved sister. How outrageous!!
I stopped talking to her after that episode. She still sends me random texts here and there, like nothing happened. I somewhere have hope that she returns the money one day - or that something terrible happens to her as she uses it! But so far, they live well and happily! All that has happened is that we did not get our share - and we have to live with it.
As a last attempt, I tried to reach out to my cousins. I told them what had happened. They did not blink.
On top of the anger, I felt guilty for years. I had not been able to protect my little sister from the loss. My Dad also blamed himself for a long time, for not having taken our share years before. But it just did not feel right when my grandmother was alive. Plus who would have expected my Aunt to behave this way?! Shame on her!!
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Part 2 - I am richer than you ever will be!
Sometimes families are complicated! And some members of mine do fall under this category!
We have a small family, and my Aunt stole money from my sister and I, when my grandmother died. So I decided to confront her about it, thinking this was a whole misunderstanding and everything would be settled quickly. How could anyone have bad intentions here: we were not close, but we all loved each other! We are a family!
Well it did not quite happen as I expected. In her very cold and polite way, my Aunt told me that my grandmother gave her everything on her deathbed. I was literally in shock!! And knowing my grandmother, I could not believe it either!
I quickly checked how I felt and my whole body was tense! I also felt that this conversation did not deserve to end here! For my grandmother, for my sister, for myself: I could not just take it. I told my Ego it was time to step up and protect ourselves! I stood up and while walking in the room (as I could not sit still!), I asked my Aunt to tell me precisely what my grandmother had said. She could not remember the exact words she said, but - and I cut her there.
I told her she could not remember because it had never existed. Or that if it did, then clearly my grandmother was no longer lucid. And that she had to give us back our share. My Aunt looked at me and stayed with her story. It felt that she had convinced herself with it. It had to be true. She had gone too far with her lie. I called her a thief, and that it would follow her until she would die. That my grandmother would wait for her on the other side, and read her the riot act. That money you steal is a curse, and can only bring bad things in your life. Anything I could find to hurt her, I said!! It also helped me feel a bit better - though I had not been able to change a dot. I still had to leave the house with empty hands. But at least I tried my best, and I did not let her go away that easily with it!!
Still, I kept blaming myself for not getting the money back. My sister and I, our children - everyone would have benefitted from it. It just was not fair! Plus they did not need the money: they were already wealthy! And now I had to live with it. And then it struck me: what is it that I have, and my Aunt doesn’t? I didn’t have the money, but we were a family with my sister and my Dad. We care for one another, and that has no price! My Aunt, on the other hand, was not close to her children. And she had lost us with this episode. She had chosen money over her family. It just felt sad.
Why did my Aunt choose money over me? Because I guess she felt money was more important. Maybe she also felt money was safer, as it would be here - while you can’t always trust people.
That was a lot of hypothesis…. But then why did I feel sad? Because she did not love me enough to choose me over money, and be fair to me.
And what did that imply? That she did not care if I would, or not, have a good life.
And why is it sad? Because one should always choose people over money, in particular if it is your own family. I loved my Aunt. I looked up for her: she was the one who succeeded in life!
And what did that mean? That she left all her values behind as she succeeded. That success is about taking. Success is about manipulating and abusing people.
And what does that mean? That I do not want money or success, because else I will become like her.
And what is it to be like her? You lose your heart. Money is not compatible with being wholehearted! It is either one, or the other: you cannot have both!
I realized that my throat was very dry and felt narrow. Like someone was strangling me, and preventing me from speaking. That I had to swallow what was happening to me, but I couldn’t. It was just stuck there: I could not digest it. I had to figure out what was there to learn for me, else it would stay here!
It came to mind that my Aunt was not who I thought she was. I always saw her as a successful sort of super hero! I wanted to be like her, as a kid! I just realized who she really was: someone who would never have enough. That was so scared of missing, that she would go as far as lying about her Mum to have a little more money. She was not the grand hero I had pictured: she was a scared person, playing to be queen. And I no longer wanted to be her.
Then who do I want to be? I do not need to be anybody else. I am gold already. I have never missed, and I will not miss either. I will earn my money honestly. And I am made of gold, because I have people who loved me dearly, and I never doubt their love: my grandmother, my Dad, my sister, my Mum - they all loved me. Never would they even think of choosing money over me. My Aunt was an exception, not the rule. I had been and still am, loved. And that, my Aunt could not take it away.
I felt the weight in my throat dropping to my stomach. It was like I had finally digested a big event in my life. My Cold Case was gone, as I discovered that I did not need to earn that money back, nor to envy my Aunt for it. I already am rich as I am, thanks to all what my family gave me - and that is priceless. I choose the people I love, and they choose me.
Part 3 - The Puzzle decoder
Let's decode this People's story with the lens of the Puzzle pieces.
Sometimes I join conversations with a given mindset, and the other person surprises me - as they have a different agenda. That can be destabilizing, and the little voice in my head certainly has a lot of comments and judgements to make!
Being present is the key: listen with an open mind, and then decide how I would like to handle the conversation forward. What matters is to react as it suits me, and being fully aware of what I am doing.
When I blindly follow my Ego, I usually react very strongly to a given situation. My emotions are overwhelming, and I give no option to my filter but to jump at the other person, or run away. I am then connected with my head and my Ego, and not with my deep emotions. It all feels real, but it is an illusion created by my Ego.
To reconnect with myself and see alternatives, I do need to pause a bit before I react. Take the time to check my body. Take the time to assess how I feel - and not in my head, but physically. Most likely I am in a stressful situation, so I could take the opportunity to relax myself for a few seconds. To ask myself what I need to be well, and give myself what comes to mind - as I will not ask more than I can give in the moment.
In difficult conversations, the easy path is to pollute myself. To assume this is what the other person thinks or means - usually not something in my favor; and then adjust my behavior to what I think is happening. Which is likely not to be what is really happening! I may not be lucid about what is going on, as my anger, my fear or my frustration clouds my judgment.
On the other hand, while my Ego is at the core of my Pollution, it could also be an asset for cases where I need to protect myself. If the conversation is making me uncomfortable, or if the other person is going beyond what I am willing to accept - then it is fair towards myself to fight back.
Leverage my Ego to respond strongly, and make a stand for myself. It is all about doing what is right for me in that moment, regardless of the other person. It is about taking good care of myself, and putting myself first. I deserve to be treated well.
I tend to see around me what I believe in. I could for instance see families that get along, or on the other hand hear about families that fight a lot.
Read about the Royal family in England, or watch the Obama so happy at the graduation of their daughters. I do notice more, and am more touched, by what I truly believe in.
Mastering my life is about deciding what I want to believe in - rather than let life or my Ego choose for myself. It is also about deciding what is right for me, and accordingly which conversation I am willing to have, and what I am willing to take out of it.
I am also in control of what impacts me in a discussion. Not that I would be cold hearted, but if something bothers me too much - then I may have a Cold Case. And it is then all up to me to find it and let it go, so I can move on with my life and live well.