When Things Don't Go Well
My friend is going through a difficult divorce. In a recent phone conversation I asked a question, wanting to help, and immediately realized I'd said exactly the wrong thing. I'd unintentionally made my friend feel like the last ally she had in the world was also against her.
I took my words back in every way I could, but they were out there. Making matters worse was the long distance between us, and the fact that she couldn't see my face and I couldn't offer a hug. I so wished I'd held my tongue.
By the end of the conversation, she understood I'd been trying to help, and we hung up friends. But of course I woke up the next morning still feeling regret at having added weight, even momentarily, to someone already struggling to stay afloat.
Blaming versus Learning
What do you tell yourself when you say or do something you regret? Does the inner critic run amok, calling you every name in the book and maybe even trying to blame the other person -- the victim of your gaffe? I know my critic does these things.
Over the years, I've learned some ways to practice inner self-defense.
- I listen, first to the critic's story and then to the centered, wise person who is also present, the one who says, "Yes, I did that," and accepts it.
- I talk - to friends, family, and others who know and understand the good faith and positive intention behind my action -- and can help me remember it.
- I tell myself another story, one that sheds light on why I did what I did and how I might learn from it and take more fitting action next time. The key moment arrives when I stop blaming myself. Blame prevents change. Learning promotes it. When I stop blaming, I can begin to learn.
- I apologize, if I haven't already.
I believe that behind every cloud there's a silver lining. And in every conflict there is a gift. I say "Thank you," and wait for the gift to show itself.