Over the past month I’ve had two learning goals for myself. First, I want to be more congruent in my facial affect, particularly when I am frustrated, angry or disappointed with someone. I tend to smile when I’m feeling these emotions sending mixed signals to others around me. Being clearer in my nonverbal communication is important for me in building my emotional intelligence.
Secondly, I committed to being increasingly aware of my ‘wants’ in any given moment. As a result of my family of origin and upbringing, I have a tendency to do what I think is ‘right’ rather than to do what I want. Being clear with myself and with others about what I want, in both my personal and professional worlds is critical and an undisputed skill of great leaders.
After setting these two intentions for myself, I felt worried that I would start attracting angry and demanding people into my life, or creating dis-ease in my relationships. I kindly asked the universe for support in to practice anger and communicating what I want. And the universe delivered…
Two great masters came to teach me how to be more immediate expressing my anger and identifying my wants. I was visiting a best friend from college for a few days, staying with her family. Enter her two toddlers and my gurus.
I struggled with my learning goals: Ugh! Why am I so conditioned to be polite and not offend anyone with anger?! What is so hard about just getting pissed off?! Screw all those people who tell me to smile when I’m walking down the street. When someone in a meeting is annoying the snot out of me why don’t I say something? And why is it so difficult to express my disappointment to someone without trying not to hurt their feelings?
Do I really want a latte…or a chai…or green tea…do I even want anything? Or to wear these high heeled shoes? Or to check my email? Or say ‘sorry’ when I’m really not? What do I want to do next weekend? Why is it so hard to figure out what type of clients I want to market to? Or what I want to be when I grow up? Or even what I want for dinner?! Or how much money I will ask for in salary negotiations? Why do I seem to always end up saying “I would like” or “would you mind” instead of “hey, I want you to do this”?
While I was stuck in my head trying really hard to be immediate with my feelings and wants, my gurus showed me what was up. For four days straight, they modeled for me how to communicate (and by communicate I mean scream) what they wanted and what was unpleasant to them. They were relentless in their instruction – kicking, throwing food, bed time tantrums and all. At any given moment they could draw on their feelings with unfiltered and undiluted clarity and immediacy. It was an overwhelming and rigorous training. A heartfelt thank you to them.
The lessons I took away from my gurus:
1) Unlearning is as important as learning. I didn’t need to learn how to express my anger or get in touch with my wants. At one point in my life it came naturally to me. Rather, I needed to unlearn the socializations inhibiting me from being in touch with myself. It is easy to be more authentic; I just needed to remember how and channel my inner toddler.
2) Gurus come in all shapes and sizes. Be open to receiving gifts from the Masters. There is no one better to teach unbridled communication and wants than toddlers. No executive coach, therapist, life counselor or trainer could have had the same impact. When you’re ready to learn, the teacher emerges.
3) Negotiating with angry toddlers is absolutely futile, no matter how experienced of a communicator you are.
4) Authenticity is impactful. There is no way I could explain to those two children how impactful they were on me. They have no understanding of me attempting to practice immediacy and emotional intelligence. They probably won’t remember my visit. They were just being who they are, in the moment, and expressing themselves authentically. When each of us does that, we are Masters.
5) Gratitude is healing. The best way to pay forward my experience is to strengthen my authenticity and feel gratitude for their help.