The Theatre of Me

One of my cats, Sugar, loudly cries while pacing through the house with a large stuffed monkey in his mouth whenever I am not immediately accessible to him. He does this when I am asleep at night, am on the phone, have company, or leave the house.

His sad expression is a performance, one that is communicating a deep sense of despair. But is he doing so for himself or for me?

I tend to think that he is doing it strictly for himself. He performs this act both when I am at home and when I am not at home. It is a means to soothe his spirit, not to provoke me.

When we communicate in any situation, so often it is for ourselves and not for the other person. We may be thinking about our interpretation of who that person is, or what we would like that person to do, but both of these are rooted within ourselves.

I think it is helpful to remember this in our interactions with others. When others say and do things that we find offensive or hurtful, it is an expression of themselves; it is not a reflection of us.

 

No is Better than Nothing

Too often, my email and phone inquiries are unacknowledged. I would rather hear a “no” than hear nothing. Saying no sets boundaries and is an expression of respect for ourselves and for other people. Not only is a response polite, even if it is negative, it helps the other person focus their time and energy on what is important and achievable. Why is it so hard to say no? I, too, have been challenged by this conundrum. It seems like the right thing to do, yet it feels so wrong. How can we change our thinking around declining the desires of others? How can we transform these situations into an opportunity to build relationships and community? Would you rather be ignored or informed?

Peaceful Communication

I find the use of the word nonviolent troubling. The word nonviolence assumes that violence is the norm and as long as we use words such as nonviolent the material conditions that create such a norm cannot be shifted. Using double negative language reinforces the very things we want to change; at best, it cancels out negative things. Our language should reflect the world we are trying to create. It should be superfluously affirmative and constructive. For example, we can engage in peaceful communication instead of nonviolent communication. The more we express what we desire, the more easily it will become the norm.

Why Do You Ask?

Questions are a powerful means of exploration and discovery. When you ask or are asked a question, think about its purpose. Is it to…
  • express sincere curiosity?
  • make irrelevant conversation?
  • make a statement (rhetorical)?
  • expose others’ ignorance?
  • pry into the personal lives of others?
How can we be more intentional about the questions we ask to build stronger relationships, organizations, and communities?

Political Civility

While it may have once seemed impossible, the content and context of political rhetoric is becoming more and more pathological. I’m not sure if candidates and their staff grossly underestimate the intelligence of the American people or if their strategies are merely a reflection of their own capacity for communication. Either way, I have little confidence in any political leader who puts down another human being, especially a fellow American. Political candidates engage in negative reciprocal exchange that makes a mockery of our democracy.

I would love to see candidates focus, or shift a significant majority of their focus, onto their own values, attributes, accomplishments, and vision rather than disparaging the opposition. That constitutes bullying, and we expect better from young children.

Comparative analysis can helpful for rational, and even emotional, decision making. To this end, candidates can simply state: This is what I want to do (strategy). This is why (purpose). This is the expected outcome (vision). In contrast, candidate B wants to do this. This is what I see as the possible outcome of that plan. Such a synopsis would result in less clutter, more complete and concrete information, and a more compassionate political climate.