Several weeks ago, my husband asked me if I’d ever been squashed by anyone. Put down, minimized or otherwise trivialized. I responded, “I’m guessing I have, but I can’t think of any specific instance.”
Well, I’ll be darned if last week the universe didn’t hand me an opportunity to have 5’1″ cut off my height and leave me feeling about 1″ tall.
The sad part is, the other person didn’t intend to squash me. I think she was actually trying to be helpful.
We were having an introductory phone call so I could learn more about her company’s services. I was looking for basic information about their structure, how they worked with clients, and the financial arrangements.
I thought it’d take about 30 minutes, tops.
Instead, I received 60 minutes of unsolicited feedback and advice about my business, including what needed to be fixed and what “successful” people do.
I finally gathered up the nerve to shut it down, but only after having a mini-meltdown.
It was uncomfortable, to say the least.
So when I saw my husband that evening and told him about the call, he said, “Remember when I asked you about feeling squashed? Well, sounds like that’s what you experienced.”
Huh. I think he had a point!
He also invited me to think about why I didn’t cut off the conversation as soon as I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe anymore.
(Oh, how lucky I feel to be married to one so wise!)
And that’s what got me thinking about the lesson I was taking away from the encounter.
Here’s what I discerned:
Trust what my heart and mind are telling me about how I feel about someone, and show respect for those feelings by taking action.
If I’d done that, I would have spoken up the moment my throat started to tighten and my mind shouted, “Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t what I wanted to talk about!” Instead, all of the uninvited advice being hurled at me, much of which played to my insecurities, left me in shock.
So while she was talking (I can’t say I was listening at that point), my mind kept flipping back and forth: is this pushing my buttons because I can’t handle feedback, or is it because it’s just flat-out inappropriate and has nothing to do with me?
Of course, my insecure monkey mind won out and bit its tongue.
Speaking up early in the call would have saved me at least 45 minutes of stress (and the stress hangover that followed through the weekend). As it is, I’m never getting that time back, but by learning from the experience, I am getting my self-respect back.
Part of the learning process is noticing how my introvert nature contributes to my relationship choices.
Introverts and independence go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t mean that other people aren’t important to us or that we don’t play well with others; we simply are very deliberate and even cautious about who we invite into our inner world. We see it simply: people in, energy out. We can absolutely love and adore people, and they can still exhaust us. That’s why we tend to have intimate circles of friends.
I’ve noticed that while I’m protective of my energy when it comes to personal relationships, I’m almost more protective when it comes to who I bring into my entrepreneurial life. I have a Swiss Army knife mentality, which sometimes resists asking for assistance, even when I feel like I’m drowning.
A conversation with a professional singer and self-professed introvert reminded me of why we will sometimes do anything to find a solution other than ask another person for help.
She and I agreed that whenever we bring someone else into our psyche and make the internal external, we are acutely aware of our vulnerability.
This makes it all the more important to have clarity about who you want to work with, and to whom and what you’re going to say “yes” or “no.”
Sometimes a potential client or partner seems to fit when it comes to achieving a similar goal… yet, there’s not that “click” you feel when you’re connected with your ideal partner. Often, you know that someone isn’t a match because of a feeling you have in your core. You might notice anxiety, as I did in the call I described above. Or perhaps you find yourself exhausted after every encounter, and it’s not a “good” tired, but an “I can’t wait to be alone” tired.
In order for us to be vulnerable, we need to feel safe. We need to feel like we’re being held whole, capable and resourceful. A safe space means there’s no judgment, no assumptions, no “here’s how it’s going to work.” It’s a space for equals, where mutual respect rules.
Vulnerability in a relationship (personal or professional) can be the key to its success or to its demise. How do you know which it’s going to be? You probably can’t know 100%, but you can sharpen your awareness by noticing:
- Do I feel safe?
- Can I be myself?
- Do I feel respected?
- Do I feel trusted?
- Do I feel energized?
- Do I sense the other person feels the same about me?
Your criteria may vary. For instance, one additional question for me is “Can we be ‘alone, together’?” Are we comfortable just hanging out and working without having to talk? Another is “Do we share similar values?”
I ended up letting that service provider know I was going in a different direction, even though she kindly offered to connect me to a more energetically-aligned associate of hers. I’m going to go local first, where I can look someone in the eye and get a sense of how well we’d work together.
And next time something like that phone call happens, I’m going to speak up much, much sooner.
Your energy is one of your most valuable assets of your business (and your life!). Choose to connect with people who lift you up. It doesn’t matter if someone is the guru of them all, beloved far and wide – if you don’t feel that “click,” if you don’t feel safe, let them go.
As Wayne Dyer so beautifully says, “If you meet someone whose soul is not aligned with yours, send them love and move along.“*
Please share: How do you know when someone’s a good partner for you? How do you handle it when it’s clear there’s a disconnect or misalignment?
A few of you have asked about what to say when relationships or conversations derail…
If it’s not in the heat of the moment, but an ongoing issue, I think it’s reasonable to ask for a conversation, such as a “check-in” or “process check.” Then we can say, “Something doesn’t feel quite right here to me. We’re not getting the results/I’m not comfortable with/There seems to be a disconnect…”
In the moment is more challenging. My colleague Rachel reminded me of a term, “flooding.” She shared on Facebook that flooding is “a term coined by Dr. John Gottman. When adrenalin and cortisol flood the nervous system, we feel the ‘fight or flight’ response. Our ‘lizard’ brain is activated and has incomplete information. Our prefrontal cortex (place where we can process and make complex, rational decisions) usually is getting info much slower and having a hard time functioning amidst the nervous system flood.”
In those cases, it’s helpful to have a few phrases ready to help interrupt the flood. For instance:
“I’d like to call a time-out for a moment…”
“Can we slow down here? I need a moment to process…”
“I’m a bit confused/concerned/curious about where this conversation is headed…”
“I need to jump in here and tell you what I’m experiencing…”
It’s important to remove any hint of blame or judgment from the conversation (which may not be easy if one or both people are feeling emotional). It’s not about assigning blame for the misalignment, but getting it out in the open, checking to see if it’s something that can be fixed, and if not, deciding how best to part ways. “It’s not a good fit” is both an honest and gentle way to disentangle yourself.
* Image is a scanned card from Wayne Dyer’s “Inner Peace Cards“