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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Past is a Teacher

Recently a blast from the past haunted me. Years ago I had a troubling experience, and one of the people who caused that terrible event came into my purview. I had an immediate negative and frightened reaction. Probably a bit of PTSS: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

After seeing this person again in what was a harmless situation, I thought about the fear and worry he incited in me. I also thought about what to do when I see this person again. I realized that the best way to deal with this is to allow that past experience to be a good teacher and move forward with that new learning.

In the situation I refer to, in my opinion, the individual acted without ethics, care, knowledge, courage or sensitivity. It was a cruel experience, and an experience I was not prepared for. But now I know that there are many ways to react to situations that are cruel and worrisome, but not physically dangerous.

First of all, it's important to know who you are and what you stand for. The better we know ourselves, the better we'll be able to represent ourselves with humility, strength and dignity.

Next, when verbally attacked, it's important to listen and ask clarifying questions with respect. There's typically no need to rush to a defense or response and it's better to ask as many questions as you need to ask to best understand the situation. Situations like the one I faced, in hindsight, lacked clarity--people, like the person I saw, really didn't even know what they were doing or why. The use of questioning would have brought the details of the situation to light for all.

If possible, the following step, is to create a process for peace--a way to come to common ground and understanding.

I'm sure I'll meet with angry, discontented individuals again. I'm sure that I'll be threatened, ridiculed and demeaned again too. What I hope will be different will be my level of confidence to represent myself well, diffuse the disrespectful individual by seeking clarity in respectful ways, and forge peaceful paths for next steps.

Specifically questions like this can help.
  • I note that you are very upset, can you tell me why?
  • What can I do now to help you with this situation--what will help you?
  • Can you explain your point of view more?
  • I don't understand that detail well, can you tell me more about it?
  • Why or what would make you think that?
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
  • Is there anything I can say to help you understand my point of view more or better?
Questioning is a very helpful technique when it comes to finding common ground. Patience and taking your time helps too. And, making time to carefully outline your point of view is needed as well. It may be that you politely leave the meeting to give yourself tie to think alone or with comrades to figure out exactly where you stand in the situation.

Past troubling events can be great teachers for the future if we're willing to take the time to reflect on the event and recognize the inherent lessons.