Friday, March 29, 2013

It's all in The Delivery

I had a breakthrough this week.

Those of you who know me best, know that I absolutely HATE confrontation of any kind. I have typically either refused to make an issue of it (and allwed resentment to grow), walked away from it altogether, or if I couldn't walk away from it, I clammed up and retreated into stony (avoidance) silence. If pressed, and backed into a corner, I reacted - and badly. "Exploding" is the closest word I can use to described what happened if I was cornered. 

But this week, something different happened. It was a normal, completely everyday occurrence which might not mean anything to anyone else, but for me it took on significance because of the way I reacted. 

I was scheduled to attend a meeting at a certain time. There was an option to call into a teleconference number and wait for the folks at the meeting to do the same so that I could hear what was going on without being exposed to fragrances (an issue for me). 

Through a comedy of errors that were unknown to the people who arranged the meeting, they never dialed in. I was left sitting on the line, listening for over 20 minutes to a very talented guitarist play the same. song. over. and over. The frustration level was growing. Finally I mentioned to someone that I'd been on hold for quite a while. She decided to call in too ... and received the message, "The moderator has not yet joined the call." Great - I was done waiting. I hung up, 23 minutes into the one-hour meeting.

"You need to tell them," a co-worker said to me when they got back to the office; I was telling her about my phone experience. "Really, you do."

Confrontation. Ugghh.

I knew she was right - but I didn't want people to think less of me than they already might. How can I do this? I thought. 

And then an idea popped into my head. Hmm. That just might work! 

"Business People In Discussion" courtesy of

I approached one of the chairpersons of the meeting as she was on her way somewhere, called her by name, and smiled brightly when she looked in my direction. Grinning broadly and with a cheerful (perhaps overly-cheerful) voice, I quipped, "Didya have a nice meeting??" 

Her eyes narrowed. "Y-ye-e-essss," she ventured cautiously. 

The cheerful voice (which somehow sounded so alien to me) mustered on.  "I tried to attend - I phoned in, I waited, but nobody was there!" By this time I was positively joyful - although secretly I wondered if she thought I was going to have a psychotic break at any moment. 

Instead, the guarded look disappeared, and she put her hand up to her mouth in dismay. "Oh my goodness - did you get some notes from people who were there?" I assured her - still quite pleasantly - that someone had given me the Coles Notes version. Between the two of us, we figured out what had probably happened, and all was well. 

I went back to my desk in a daze. I had confronted someone ... and the earth did not crumble. In fact, things were great! My stress level was gone - I'd taken the initiative, I'd gotten my point across, and I hadn't lost my cool or said anything negative at any point in the conversation. 

For someone who has always cared a great deal what others thought of her, and who has always lost her cool or gotten tongue-tied when in situations that involved conflict, this was a true epiphany, a revelation of a deep truth. 

It's all in The Delivery. People don't mind being confronted if it is done in a non-accusatory, non-threatening way. 

My technique probably didn't have the finesse I would have liked, in hind-sight. However, the experience taught me that it IS possible to talk to people about something you don't like ... without becoming personally invested in it or feeling bad about it during or after the discussion. 

I'm not sure if you see it that way, but for me, this is HUGE.

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