Communication is the hardest thing we do, a close friend once told me wisely. Honestly, before hearing this from him, I had never considered it a complicated affair. I just thought I was right and that other people weren’t getting it, or me for that matter. Still, I did seem to have an uncanny capacity for putting my foot in my mouth.
When I finally read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, I discovered that I had other options to digging in and falling on my sword when conversations blew up. Ask for a miracle, the book advised simply.
Not believing that I could overcome years of conflict and self-sabotaging arguments just by asking for help, I decided to slog through the massive esoteric tome A Course in Miracles for more answers. While I might have been impressed at the time with my spiritual tenacity, what was my biggest lesson from reading “the Course”? Ask for a miracle when I’m being a jerk.
Last week, as I embarked down the slippery slope of indignation and defensiveness (with a little self-righteousness stirring the pot), the universe provided me with another opportunity to ask for cosmic help. Why won’t she just listen to me? I thought to myself as a conversation with a co-worker deteriorated rapidly, to our mutual discomfort and agitation.
“What are you doing?” my smarter self asked me incredulously. “You have to work with this person.” I didn’t listen.
But this [much] smarter part of me watched in dismay and disbelief as the conversation continued to spiral without any conclusion—or consideration, I might add. At last, I heard a quiet nudge telling me I wasn’t getting out of this debacle my own. And in a flash, that single thought broke the circuit.
Incredibly, I began to hear what the other person was saying. In seconds, we went from talking at cross-purposes to committing our mutual support. My smarter self cheered at the turnaround. Regular old me breathed a sigh of relief and thanks that the universe had come so swiftly to my rescue—again.
Over the past few years, I have used this practice many (many) times—for minor disagreements and major blow-ups, in the middle of personal strife and professional scuffles. And I can say with complete confidence the technique always works. Always.
Whether it’s divine intervention or my smarter self getting me out of my own way is hard to say. Most likely, it’s a clever and compassionate combination of the two. Yet rarely do these gifts of mercy have much to do with anyone seeing my point of view. That’s not to say occasionally people don’t.
But the real miracle seems to create an opening, however brief, for me to release my entrenched position and take a broader perspective. And it’s truly miraculous that in the process of stepping back, and occasionally admitting I’m being a jerk, I no longer have to pull a foot out of my mouth.