I had trouble looking away. It was a mirror to my former, nay, my inner self. I saw her and realized what I really look like. I had tried for years, asked, begged to know, yet somehow still unable to hear or see myself as I was. I saw everything I’ve ever felt and thought in her that night. I saw her talking to people who know and love and agree with her, still having to work just to be with her.
She somehow left no room for anyone else in this huge storm of feeling, even though we are already in her boat, for better or worse. I realized how often she must be seen as our mouthpiece – unelected and undelegated, but she is simply the loudest. I realized all the things people wished they could explain to me and should have been able to, but I was too blind to see. I see now all the things I needed and wanted and should have known, but couldn’t because of issues of my own. This woman I presume to be several years my senior, certainly in her career if nothing else. Yet she had missed a crucial part of the human experience, that somehow she didn’t know about.
Being right is such a satisfying feeling, and I know it all too well. I was taught to be right before making my move to ensure I could rebutt any future complaint. And for me, being right has always been supreme. If you aren’t right, you have no place in my life. I’ve always been sure of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being right was my grandmother’s song. She sang it to me before bed at night, she carries it in the dark – her own personal light. I get it, the whole thing, and still feel the same way. Yet I have learned my lesson today. I finally understood why people say I was too focused on being right at the end of the day. It’s not that stuff I told myself – that unequal display that pits feeling over facts.
The thing is how deep this feeling goes that if I know the truth and I bring it to light it should stand on its own and shine nice and bright. But when I triumphantly reveal my truth to a tepid response or worse, disbelief… well I think maybe I didn’t explain well enough, maybe I didn’t say quite enough. I start to dig deeper and deeper that hole to try to make room for all the evidence I know. I pile it on thicker and keep adding more. It’s more proof – how could that be bad? When merits and support don’t pan out either, for some reason we get more desperate. “Since the rightness is there, it just needs to be shared, or maybe if I say it again”. It turns out the more insistent that gets, the less genuine it ends up sounding. It is genuine, and people should know that the more we push the more we believe in our truth, but they somehow never quite get there.
I watched her talk, eyes blazing, looking for backup. She wanted so much for people to agree and see the goodness she had to offer. She didn’t realize how intense she’d gotten or when they started to pull away. They know and love her so they hang through it anyway, knowing it’s just the way she operates. But outsiders don’t want to deal with that, and they’re not exactly to blame. What she doesn’t see is that her rightness became so big, so massive that there was no room for wrongness. There was no way for someone to say “you know what, you’ve changed my mind.” Because they had been wrong once before, she beat them about the head with it. They couldn’t get room to even say “I’m wrong” let alone “You’re right.” She stomped and hated and wailed and raged so hard she could not see straight. Seeing stars she still held on, to the vaguest notion of her argument. The way she carried on I found to be outrageous.
I’d been her tons of times before, thinking it was just expressing frustration. I wish I could have talked to her for a moment, to let her know how she was mistaken. That she didn’t realize people weren’t trying to trivialize or dismiss her entirely. She didn’t see how they prefer to be, they just operate a little differently. She could have been simply berating them. But I like to think that she wasn’t just punishing, that she had hoped or intended to change minds. Just as I like to think the ones she talks to might, somewhere inside, want to hear her side. Otherwise, why would they all be talking there?
If we want someone to hear us and really understand, they can’t do that under pressure. People who do not rely on aggression or coercion to control the situation retreat when they feel threatened. No matter how important we feel something is, when exposing someone new we need to respect their process. Most people need to learn enough to feel comfortable forming an opinion, and then feel comfortable enough to share it. People need to see things through the the lamp of their own experience. They form opinions based on alignment or opposition with their values and beliefs, so challenging those is even harder. Once they’ve shared it, you’re getting somewhere and you might be able to get further. It’s up to you at that point to make sure to validate them. Folks wanna know you consider their viewpoint too.
And it may seem obvious, but if we believe that we are right and someone else is wrong, it can’t be that hard to believe that sometimes we are the one in the equation who is wrong.
Are you trying to educate, inspire or connect? If that’s true then it needs to be done with respect.