I was painting rocks this morning and was reminded of the simplicity of navigating relationships.
I am painting many little rocks different colors. I have a few projects in mind that I will be using them for. I discovered in the process that each of the colors covered the rocks differently. Some were thick and only needed one coat. Others needed more than three coats. And it wasn’t consistent with the brand.
While I am at the genesis of paint study/research, I realized that the struggles of having a satisfying rock painting experience is a metaphor for the struggles we have developing satisfying relationships. We will discover that the solutions are the same, yet easier to implement in successful, efficient and enjoyable rock painting.
Why is it the same?
We as humans, whether painting rocks, or relating to people, are trying to get needs met. The needs in this case of rock painting include beauty, efficiency, ease, and creativity.
Here’s a short list of possible strategies to meet those needs:
1. Keep using the paints I have in the house and choose the colors that cover the rocks quickly. [While it saves time driving to the store (increased efficiency), I lose the number of colors that I will paint the rocks (decreased creativity).]
2. Go to the craft store, talk to the person in the paint section about the colors and brands, and choose according to his/her recommendation. [When I think about this strategy, I am concerned. Not sure if the expertise of the staff at the store will actually give me more information than I already have. (decreased efficiency and ease and possible more need depletion of inspiration and support and effectiveness). If s/he does have information that is helpful then awesome (increased long-term efficiency and meet additional needs of inspiration, information, support)]
3. Come up with a different paint rock theme, monochromatic maybe? [meets all the needs]
4. Abandon rock painting projects. [not sure about needs with this strategy. I could come up with a new plan that would be very creative. Efficiency would be met, because I could get other things done —for instance, write a blog. Beauty —I could go outside and look around —or look in the mirror (working on loving the beauty that I see inside myself!!) And ease, I would have more time to watch tennis, read or cook.]
5. You Tube! I forgot, I can learn anything I want on YouTube. [increased efficiency, and likely creativity, ease —no driving anywhere]
As you can see, it’s easy. Just pick one of these strategies and see if it works.
I noticed how little emotional energy I had considering all these strategies. Which in my experience is not how it tends to go when navigating relationships.
Because rocks don’t care what kind of paint we use. They don’t seem to communicate to me anything about even if they want or don’t want to be painted. And the paints themselves don’t seem to say anything back to me if I get upset or want to use another color. And I don’t include the manufacturers of the paints needs as part of my decision making process.
Truthfully, if I had a friend who was the owner of the company who made the paints I didn’t like, this decision would be harder. I would include the needs of my friend in my decision, and at very least, some of the strategies above wouldn’t no longer meet all the needs that I was hoping to get met. Consideration and care as examples of the additional needs.
Here’s the kicker: Humans are not rocks.
All humans have needs. And in the consciousness we call “NVC Consciousness”, we want everyone’s needs to get met. Automatically, decisions become more complex. There is a whole other person to consider.
Add one other person into my rock painting story and we can easily demonstrate how much complication (real and imagined) can be added to this story. More needs, more stories, more time, more feelings. Just more of everything. Well, maybe.
We think it will take more time. I can think of one scenario in which opposite is true. While more complex, it might end up more easily solved, and actually take less time:
Possibly my friend who is owner of the paint company has the information I need to accomplish my rock painting task easily. I give her a call, and let her know about my situation. She is an expert and gives me all the information I need to proceed with my rock painting projects. All my needs above get met by having this conversation! And I save time.
If her company is having problems (maybe because the quality is not as good as the others?) and she is worried about her finances, the conversation may not have gone by so quickly. Possibly I would offer her empathy for her circumstances, and I might choose not to ask for her for solutions to my problems given what I have heard calling her. The needs that get met by that choice are care, connection, and communion. Which are important to me, and I trust the needs I intended to meet by making the call will get met another way.
If she is super into her paint and doesn’t believe that it wasn’t performing well, then possibly it would be a struggle for her to hear my story. We might choose to navigate whatever comes up for her. Maybe she hears a complaint, and is sick of hearing complaints and just asks me to get off the phone, and now there is tension. Obviously more time is required, and I haven’t had many of the original needs met, nor much of the touchy-feely connection needs.
What if she is holding resentment toward me from something that happened a while back. She never told me about anything back then, and when I called she decided now was the time. This conversation could take minutes, or it could last a lifetime. Depending on how important things are to her, to me, and our relationship.
And yet, the structure of identifying feelings, needs and strategies remain the same.
Point of this story:
Humans are not rocks. Humans tend to want input about what colors you paint them, when you paint them, and information about why you want to paint them.
If people are truly are committed to being responsible for their feelings and are needs centered, conversations are much more exciting, hopeful, productive and rich. Choose with intention with whom you interact and the care you take to interact with them. Always remembering why you chose them, and if it is still and idea you feel good about.