Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What are you waiting for? The Courage and Commitment to Communicate

I spoke to a dear friend of mine yesterday who reported back to me that she had used the Pink Elephant Promise and tried to have a conversation about an issue that had been lingering in her relationship for the past 6 months.   When I asked how it went she said that it really didn't go so well and that it wasn't the Promise or even the set up that went badly, but rather  how "right" she felt and how that feeling of being "right" got in her way of having a conversation that created understanding.  

What is so wonderful about this is that the conversation happened, she had the opportunity to step back and reflect and agree to reconvene later in the week.    That's a win in my book and here's why...

There is nothing easy about having those tough conversations.  Tough conversations are not going to be easy, otherwise they would be "Easy" conversations.   The Pink Elephant Project and its Promise is by no means a silver bullet that will resolve the issue at hand but rather a catalyst for brining to the surface what needs to be brought to the surface.

In fact what most people including myself will find is that the first Pink Elephant conversation will actually bring up a host of other Pink Elephants.   Why?  Its because the unspoken and the fear that surrounds the conversation show's up in so many other ways within our relationships.  

These unspoken conversations are like hidden land mines that can go off with sometimes the slightest provocation.  They are responsible for the seemingly random barbs and sometimes passive aggressive behavior or in other cases a slow and gentle drifting away from one another.   Relationships take work and they take a level of commitment to one another to continue to engage one another on a daily basis as well as a commitment to be responsible for ones own feelings and interpretations.    

I know from my own experience the longer you ignore what's been on your mind and pretend you're "fine" with things the greater the suffering you will experience in the relationship.   What is amazing to me is our willingness to suffer unnecessarily and our incredible ability to mask that suffering will all kinds of things: buying things, traveling, exercise, working, food, drugs, alcohol and sex.  What I have come to know from my own life and working with others on this exact issue is that ITS NOT SUSTAINABLE.   It takes way too much effort and work to keep masking the obvious and while we can delude ourselves and have become quite adept in doing so, if we really tell the truth, we end up simply tolerating our lives and the people in it.  I've been FINE for the past almost 39 years and I'm over it!  

Ultimately we all have got to accept that for any given circumstance there are just as many interpretations as there are people looking at the circumstance.   Given that, all we can do is begin to understand what each of our perspective is based, be curious about the others perspective, and start to see where if possible we can soften our response to situations that seem to be different than what we believe is "true."

What it comes down to for me is that I would rather find the Courage and Commitment to Communicate TODAY, face my fear of criticism and rejection, say what needs to be said, and if need be have a series of follow up discussions than sit back, suffer unnecessarily, and quietly wait for the next issue to arise.  

I've heard it put a couple of ways:   You can put icing on a mudpie and pretend you've got a cake but at the end of the day you've still got mudpie. 

Or in the words of my mentor Matthew Ferry:  You can build a rose garden above a sewer and it may look pretty but at the end of the day it still stinks when you get close to it.  

What conversations have you been unwilling to have that if you had it would make a difference in your overall well being today?

I know its not easy, and one of the goals of the Project is to recognize that this is going on everywhere with everyone, it is part of the human experience.  By sharing with one another what is possible by breaking though our own fears and working through the issues rather than pretending they don't exist, we can begin to help each other and keep encouraging each other to find the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate." 

Are you in?


  1. S
    I apologize, for not getting back to you sooner. I have been battling a sinus infection and have beden out of communication for the past week. I am beginning to feel better and will send you my thoughts early next week.

  2. I have been complaining that I attract men who can't communicate. Recently I realized that I must not communicate very well either (or why would I attract that). So I've started working on that, because of course I can only work on me. I've started asking direct questions in relationship, even when there is a good chance that I won't like the answer. I am saying how I feel, even when it makes me feel uncomfortable or awkward. I am finding out that yes, it is scary, but... it feels great! I feel so much freer and happier afterwards.