After dealing with Mari’s e-mails in the last post, I had some time to reflect and I faced doubts about how I had handled it. Not to say that I am berating myself because it was the one of the first times I tried to assert myself. Maybe I should have gotten her number and called her (instead of trying to clarify what happened via e-mail) went through my mind.
When Mari brought up subtly my choices in food and took it further by insulting things I like to do (writing, drawing, exercising, etc.) and the food dish I brought, I had wondered if I had provoked these attacks. Did I build understanding through conflict with my approach or help create a potential battlefield?
I focused on the positive shift: the fact that I wasn’t going into the evening angry because I was going to eat something I didn’t want to eat. In the past I have giving in to my boundaries in order to be ‘seen’ as less difficult and I have reacted passive aggressively toward others not realizing that I was angry with my decision.
Even with the subtle comments and insults, I didn’t react to them. Instead, the evening was easy-going and I took her comments in stride and enjoyed the evening. This was a small factor into why the evening went well, the other factor that helped was the other couple’s behaviors. They behaved in ways that were healthy and addressed Mari and her husband’s inappropriate behaviors very well. Besides the lesson I learned from asserting myself, I also learned from interacting with them. Here is a list of behaviors I noticed, none are new, only it was refreshing to see them in action.
1. They Listen (I mean really listen)
This seems like a no brainer. The OC (other couple) let others speak and waited their turn.
2. They Empathize
The OC have an adult daughter who is taking university entrance exams. She failed the first round and is re-taking them shortly. When telling their daughter’s story the mother clearly empathized with her daughter’s angst when it comes to taking standardized tests and seemed to be in tune with what her daughter felt yet, let her daughter navigate her path. She wasn’t preaching or speaking about solutions for her daughter. She was neither critical or unconcerned when telling her daughter’s story. She was empathetic.
3. They openly share their opinions and feelings and accept others’
Conversation flowed from topic to topic and on many subjects we differed in opinion. The OC readily accepted others’ views and voiced their own. This helped create an atmosphere of sharing.
4. They speak for themselves
What is interesting is that the husband and wife of the OC spoke for themselves. It was the manner in which they presented their feelings and opinions that spoke to their individulaity in the relationship. Of course, they spoke of their common interests as well, yet at the same time I got even a better idea of who each of them were by how they told their own story. I was able to better discern the differences in the their personalities by how they spoke. It was clear that they were not enmeshed but still connected!
5. They speak up for those that don’t have a voice or who haven’t found it yet
There were several times during the evening that Mari made subtle insults about my exercise routine, my enjoyment of writing, etc. Such comments, I wondered, could have been provoked by my initial assertions and boundaries (as an attack). I missed some insults however, the OC didn’t. They addressed them as they came up, sometimes I didn’t realize I was being insulted until the OC said something to show their support.
At one point, Mari makes a forceful comment to her toddler daughter about her food and the OC also addressed Mari’s comment in a way that illustrated that they had the child’s back (welfare).
6. They fight the ILLOGICAL, not the ASSERTION
Mari talks about how the women in a certain European country (she travels there for work) always are dressed nicely and well manicured and that she felt like a total slob when she works out of that office. Everyone waits to let her finish her story. She then adds that she can’t understand how they do it. She states that she works ungodly hours and that these women leave at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The OC says “It looks like you found your answer to your question.”
At another point, Mari states that they can’t travel because of the toddler daughter (and tilts her head towards her). The OC address the illogical reasoning in blaming the child.
7. They know their limits
The OC set limits. Mari had said in the beginning of the evening, “Men are cooking, women are drinking” and the OC didn’t follow this suggestion. They also set limits on when the conversation wasn’t inclusive or involved insulting what another person said or did.