Thursday, October 27

When 3 days feels like a week.

It's not even over and it's been a long week, bowling then training, house concert, overnight guests...  I'm done and I still have to get through tomorrow.  It is a week of a lot of internal thinking and you all make a good sounding board.  Ready for some therapy?  If not, come back on the weekend, I'm okay with that.

I have been in training yesterday and today.  My manager suggested I take "Consultative Influencing Skills".  It is geared to people who want to influence people they have no direct power over.  For example, I have to make recommendations to my clients, but I have no actual say in their decision making process. 

Part of this has been analyzing personality types.  In this training, people fit into 4 types and likely have a mix of types.  I quite easily recognized I'm "Amiable".  Generally speaking, amiables are high on relationships and more likely to ask/gather information than to tell people what to do.  End result is that I'm the soft squishy type who needs to feel safe in a personal relationship with others before I will do anything risky.  For this reason, I will do a whole lot to avoid conflict.  That isn't all unhealthy, I go a long way to prevent what might become conflict because I just don't want to go there.  I build strong relationships so if we do end up in a conflict, I'll feel safer and you will know how to keep the soft squishy parts of me intact.

Today we spent a couple of hours on how to deal with conflict.  We had to do some silly role playing and the person confronting me is someone I know fairly well at work.  I feel comfortable with her.  And yet I was almost in tears from the play confrontation.  Now that I'm home and safe and thinking about it, I can feel those emotions surfacing again.  I know I don't deal with conflict well, but I'm still surprised how much impact that role play had on me.  I shouldn't feel tears welling up 8 hours later on something that wasn't even real, there were no actual stakes at hand for me. 

This has left me thoughtful.  I know it's work training, but I'm trying to see how this fits into me at work where I'm not happy at the moment, but also at home where I am happy in moments and in my relationship with Mr. Lina.  I do avoid conflict, I know that.  It is in keeping with my style, but also what I grew up with.  The best way to disagree with my mother is to say "That's a fabulous idea, but have you considered..." even if I think she's 8 degrees of bat shit crazy (perhaps particularly when I think she's 8 degrees of bat shit crazy).  She holds grudges, loooong ones because she doesn't resolve anything, even if you ask her, she won't tell you what the actual problem is.  I see that, and much as I want to be like her in many respects, I don't want to live like that.  I tend to take the stance that it's either worth me standing my ground and finding a way to voice my displeasure, or it's not worth a second thought.  And if I chose that this is not the battle to fight, it is my problem to let it go.

All couples disagree, I started to think about my marriage because I feel I manage conflict there well.  Mr. Lina often comes out with statements that you would believe were carved in granite, there was NO WAY there was flexibility in that statement.  It's phrased vehemently and nearly makes me flinch.  Yet I can hear when it's not true.  Or when time will change his perspective, where he will see the grey in a situation he believes to be black and white.  This is particularly true with wanting children.  When he first told me he couldn't have children, I was dumbfounded.  I saw so much in his personality that screamed "SHOULD HAVE KIDS". 
The 6 steps are suppose to be (and I'm paraphrasing here, the sheets are at work not with me):
  1. State there is a conflict (this can be, "I got your email, I'd like to discuss the contents" enough to give the heads up I don't agree with all of it and we need to clarify a few points)
  2. Ask about the issue, dig down to what the real problem is, it's probably not what they emailed you about.  (good luck doing this with my mom, it could be a while)
  3. Reiterate the core issue back to them to show you listened and understand.
  4. State your own needs.
  5. Ask to work together to find a mutually beneficial workaround, brain storm on how you can both meet your needs.
  6. Draw up the plan of action for resolution.
I'm coming to realize, Mr. Lina and I spend months in step two for the big issues in our lives.  I think we spent 9 months in step two just to have him realize he did want kids.  The issue wasn't specifically about having children, it was children with his ex, it was the parenting style of his dad, it was insecurity, nearly anything but simply having a child.  This long timeline works for me because when I start to freak out, I state as much, that I need to step away from the conversation and we come back to it maybe a week later, maybe a month later, but it comes back when I feel safe again.  We don't hold resentment while putting the issue to the side, we know it's coming back and I can't shut up about things I'm pondering.  The funny thing is that our friends see us as the best example of communicators, and not that communication isn't important or part of this, but at the heart, it's me avoiding conflict and taking it in small chunks that I can process.  I never saw it from that perspective before.

Amiable people are essentially motivated by wanting to be safe.  At the core, I feel that.  I have lots of stories from my childhood that exemplify that.  I didn't talk to my kindergarten teacher because I loved everything about kindergarten and I was afraid she wouldn't like me or think I was stupid, so if I didn't say anything it couldn't be the wrong thing.  I did the same thing to my music teacher that I absolutely adored in Grade 6 and 7.  I inadvertently took the risk to talk around her trying out for the school play in Grade 8 and I am still in touch with her now.  Most of my social skills that make me look like the more social extrovert are actually me trying to make everyone else feel safe and comfortable.  I am not like that when I am not safe so first impressions of me aren't always true. 

Right now, I'm feeling overwhelmed with issues that stem from control and change.  I can't change my job because I need some stability while we figure out the whole kid issue.  I can't control getting pregnant or I damn well would be.  Adoption from CAS falls into something I can control because I could pick up the phone tomorrow.  However, once I do it feels a bit like Pandora's box to me and it's going to be a big whoop ass change.  It's also going to mean opening my life and home for others to inspect.  Part of me knows that will go well, part of me is back in kindergarten scared to say the wrong thing.  These are all things that feel like conflict to me.  So what am I doing?  Avoiding anything I can in my life - even silly things like not returning phone calls, forgetting to turn my out of office on, not taking my medication at all yesterday (I did better on that front today)...

I feel pretty wrung out from all this thinking and poking at sore spots.  I believe it's good in the long run, but my goodness is it ever exhausting.  Thanks for listening if you made it all the way down here. 

4 comments:

  1. OK, I'm curious what the other three types are, but "amiable", that sounds like me---want to feel safe in my relationships, low conflict, conflict avoidance...

    Self-improvement of any kind is exhausting, I think (and I have no energy for anything right now, so that's making it harder). Hang in there, do some things that look after you. Do some sewing, pet a stuffy, whatever you need.

    And congratulations on your ability to break conflict with Mr. Lina down into manageable chunks and work it out---however long it takes. That's a precious, precious thing in a relationship.

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  2. I like the concepts behind styles, be it disc or myers briggs or whatever. It's pretty clear that there are different styles out there and two people can have the same end goal and information and piss each other off because they present it in a different way. When I have my class notes, I'll do a little post about the other types.

    It's been an interesting look into myself. Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate hearing other perspectives on this. It's all food for thought.

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  3. It took the Hubs and I the first ten years of our marriage to work out our conflict issues. I don't know our types, but he's an avoider and I'm an avoider/worrier so we'd both ignore everything until I blew up. Now we're much better about talking out our frustrations, and working through the problems. The 6 steps you described are pretty much what we've learned to do in regards to our relationship.

    One of the my issues with conflict is that my mother has some mental instability and I grew up learning to react the way she wanted me to react -- getting upset when she wanted me to be upset, ignoring my feelings when I was not being heard, etc. She used to play me like a violin, and the only thing that finally broke the spell was when I got so exasperated, I stopped caring. It made me better able to step back and see her issues clearly and be empathetic without getting sucked in. Anyway, I have a reflex habit of bursting into tears when I feel trapped or backed into a corner. I'm wondering if that's your issue with the confrontation exercise -- not so much the actual unpleasantness, but the feeling of being unable to escape?

    I keep trying to type something reassuring, but I'm afraid it sounds condescending. I do believe that this kind of self-analysis is a normal part of moving to the next stage in your life, and some paralysis and frustration is normal. Not that you shouldn't try to move forward, but remember to be compassionate with yourself in the meantime.

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  4. We all learn how to deal with conflict. I can't imagine what it would be like to take on her mential health issues.

    I'll put some thought into the escape angle on this.

    Compassionate with myself, that's a good way to phrase it. I think it's why I'm trying to figure out the root for me of what's going on. I don't like that I'm not taking care of myself the way I should.

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Thanks for your comments, I love to have a two way conversation. I seem to be getting a lot of spam from anonymous users and am turning off the ability to comment that way. I really would like to hear from you so if you do want to add your two cents without an OpenId, email me at seraphinalina at gmail dot com.