This week I have the opportunity to mourn some interactions I had over the weekend.
What does that mean?
It means that I had some experiences that I feel less than excited about. In the moment they were a bit awkward. I was feeling a bit confused, and disappointed, even a little sad in the moment. Very aware that I wished ‘it’ was different, and doing the best I could to respond to how I was feeling and what the people I was interacting with were saying. For that capacity I am grateful and celebrating. I remained connected and interactive and responsive. There were no arguments. In fact, the conversations were friendly and filled with curiosity and interest.
So what are my regrets? And why am I writing about it?
The most important piece about this is to distinguish between regret for needs not getting met and feeling guilty for doing something wrong.
What’s the difference?
Regret for needs not getting met is a way (or process) where I can understand, savor, and evaluate for different strategies next time. It is productive, connecting and needs based —meaning related to something real. I might become aware of something I want to share with the others involved, or information that I want to ask them for from this type of reflection.
Guilt for doing something wrong is time spent that offers little or no information that will help me in my life. While I may be usedto thinking that I’ve done something wrong, and feel quite comfortable in that negativity, those thoughts do not serve my life. I gather no information about ‘what I did wrong’ that will help navigate future similar situations. Not to mention all the physiological impacts of that kind of internalized stress.
As you know, the work of practicing Nonviolent Communication includes dropping out of right/wrong thinking and moving into distinguishing is life is being served (are needs being met).
My regrets over the weekend involved two conversations.
One was with a new person who I was happy to meet, doing work that I found valuable in my neighborhood, and has similar world-view values as I. In this case, I was struggling to use pronouns as this person used them. It seems to be one of those things that I want to ‘get’ so much, and just is so far from my personal experience, I often don’t think of it, and when I do think of it, it is after noticing I said something different than the pronoun they used.
We had a very connecting conversation about it, which I brought up. The regret I have is that it happens at all. Because I aspire for people to have an experience of respect, and being seen and heard when they are in my presence, this thing (getting pronouns wrong —or maybe just experiencing pronouns differently than another person) is in the way of that need of respect being met fully.
In this case, Our time together ended with the conversation fully revealed and discussed, yet I was still left with a sense of regret. Because I am fully connected to the needs that are the cause of my feelings of regret, I can consider what I might do in order to better have them met.
Here’s a list:
1. Reach out and ask this person for a conversation about this topic in general.
2. Reach out and ask this person for a conversation about our interaction in particular and for some information I am thinking will help me in the future in these kinds of conversations.
3. Reach out and just ask for a check in, letting this person know that I enjoyed meeting them, and will look forward to more opportunities to connect.
4. Talk with others who are educated, and skilled and compassionate in this topic.
5. Ask a friend for empathy.
6. Reach out to a friend who was also there for a check in about what their experience was and ask for advice about what to ‘do’, if anything.
7. Look for podcasts, TedTalks or other online information available to me.
8. Register for a workshop on this topic.
9. Meditate for everyone’s good feelings and trust the intentions.
If I opted to feel guilty —until at some point it passed, I would lose the creative solutions that I thought up in just 10 minutes. The loss here is that my needs will not get met, and likely next time I will have no further confidence that something new will happen and I can look forward to feeling guilty for a few hours, days, months once again. (um, no thank you!?)
The second opportunity for me to feel regret was because someone showed up for a practice group that I cancelled two days prior. It is a new policy that I have to change/cancel a workshop depending upon registration. I did close registration. Someone showed up to participate in the practice group and found me in the garden (where else?) This person is new to the practice and didn’t register, and didn’t know there was possibility that it wouldn’t be happening.
Again, in this case, we had a lengthy conversation. I believe I was fully heard for my disappointment in how I contributed to their time being spent and not getting their needs met. I believe they felt care and respect and shared all they wanted to with me. And still…I was left with a lingering sense of regret.
What needs are the cause of my regret? Respect, Ease, Care, Clarity, Communication
What are some ways that I meet those needs? Here’s a list:
1. Reach out to the person and ask if there is any lingering resentment for their travels.
2. Reach out to the person and once again invite a dialog about how I feel, and ask them how better they might have seen that the group was cancelled.
3. Publish the policy on my website.
4. Ask a web designer to help me design a better way to register and distribute information.
5. Offer a discount/gift the next group to this person.
6. Make a donation to a cause that has meaning for me in the amount of the group fee.
7. Meditate for deep connection and good wishes for both me and the person involved.
I hope you will see the spaciousness that happens when you remain connected to the needs. You have many options. If you choose to feel guilty for a night or a month, it really serves no one. It doesn’t serve you, and certainly it doesn’t serve the other person involved. They aren’t even in your consciousness any longer.
Next time you do something that you feel ‘bad’ about, take a minute and consider what is the important thing about why you feel bad. Address that. Make a list of things that might offer you more connection to that thing. Make a longer list than you think possible. And when you think you might be ready, try one. Notice how you feel after. Are you a bit more free? Do you feel a bit of relief?
If you are willing, let me know what happened.