Friday, September 29, 2017

Navigating humans

For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with conflict. The idea of having disagreeable conversations usually makes me want to run for the hills, resulting in a shakiness that can easily be discerned. Over the years, I've gotten better about advocating for myself. Swallowing the fright in order to talk through things that are unavoidable. But I'm still awful at the hard stuff. And am particularly bad at fighting with people who refuse to meet me anywhere in the middle or see the pain they've caused.

Which makes this past week all the more interesting. Since the revelation earlier this week, I've been struggling with how to deal with the Beats' teachers. Though I have been communicating with the directors of the center, trying to put a plan in place for actions after the assessments, I haven't been able to even make eye-contact with the ones who filled out the assessments. A part of this is a preventative measure. I'm literally so angry that I'm worried about saying things that can never be taken back. Hence a cooling off period is required. But the root of all of this comes from trust being broken. Forgiving being lied to and betrayed.

As I've been wrestling with this, I've also been reflecting on relationships that ended or where a break was needed. In each, an obvious theme has emerged: empathetic or invested communication. The willingness to hear the other party as well as be heard. And it's that latter part that has had me thinking a lot; the need all of us have to be heard.

I'm no stranger to dealing with "hear me" arguments. Just last week, I had a very frustrated student meet with me as they didn't see the need to complete the assignments required for the course (nor for the requirement of this course in general), with it being clear they are feeling forced to spend their time on something they don't see as worthwhile. Other examples come with landlord disputes, arguments with friends and loved ones and even daily dealings at work or with family. In every case, there's a need to be heard, to give one a glimpse inside their heads or reasoning process.

There's value in being heard. It's a self-preserving act that can offer a lot of insight and if presented well can offer insights into a road forward. The conflict comes, though, when the "being heard" shifts from a balanced exchanged to being more one-sided. The reasons for the shift can range from wanting to appease/not rocking the boat to one party refusing to entertain opinions, experiences or insights that conflict with their own. It's this shift that leads to "us vs. them"/ black-and-white thinking fueling wide-ranging disputes, conflicts and even wars.

In 2012, the university I was working at invited Daryl Davis to speak on campus. Though I was unable to attend Mr. Davis's talk, I remember the outcry that arose around campus of seeing the lecture advertisement posters. Many were upset by the image of Mr. Davis shaking hands with a man wearing a KKK robe, demanding that the posters immediately be removed. The end result was that the posters were taken down, but it was only months later that the conversation was able to be resolved, with some of the students who originally demanding the removal having an "ah-ha" moment about what the imaginary was actually about and the power of the message behind it. As I overheard later in during conversations with colleagues, the intention of "being heard" had resulted in their failure to be open to actually hear.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with my current situation? Well, the root of it is once again in this dynamic. Specifically, as Grey pointed out, likely in an effort of the teachers to help us out. The reason for not communicating any worries or concerns likely comes down to not wanting to upset either Grey or me. But then there's the hurried response of filling out these assessments in order to make sure this process isn't being held up. The problem is, in this assumption of "hearing" us, a situation has been created that has resulted in a lot of heartache. Speaking with the other director yesterday, he acknowledged that though there are some of the things in the assessments are true, others are not and that things should have been done with a lot more care. But instead of pushing back on us, requesting for more time or asking for help, the push was to help us along.

All this leaves me trying to determine how to navigate this situation going forward. But also a general acknowledgement that navigating humans is insanely hard. Sometimes ending relationships has been required as there's no way to resolve the imbalance. But I don't think that's the case in this situation. There's still hope, even though the conversations to restore the balance are going to be painful.


  1. Yes to this: "navigating humans is insanely hard."

    I like the way you talk about being heard and about being open to hearing others. What would the world be like if more people did this more often?

    Too bad no one has invented a GPS navigation system for situations such as these. Wishing you well.

  2. When we are so insistent on being heard, we don't always leave ourselves open to hear. That is so true. Such a thoughtful post, thank you.

  3. Hoping that the navigation goes well for you as you move forward in this process. As someone who has a hard time navigating humans myself, this rings so true.


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