In the spirit of Brene Brown and her encouragement to be vulnerable, I am going to admit to you that I have had a REALLY unpleasant habit. It is something I have predominantly saved for people I really care about. I have openly claimed to use it as a way of showing affection. I have been half aware that I do it, but am fortunate enough to have a business partner who has recently called me on it. So what is this unpleasant habit? With my permission Tim very gently pointed out that after I have had a great and meaningful conversation, often with great connection I finish it with a nasty parting shot; something that leaves the recipient with an unpleasant feeling. The gift of this honesty had me explore what I do, and I discovered that I use sarcasm fairly frequently with the people I really love. I might say something like…”Well I wouldn’t have put up with you so long if I didn’t care about you.” A remark intended by me to say how much I care about the person, but to the receiver’s ears the message was that they had done something that needed to be “put up with”. This kind of phrase whilst well-meant left the other person feeling less than great, as I extended a condescending gift of affection that undermined them.
I can tell you why I do it, it was ingrained as a child. My father with a look of complete adoration on his face would introduce me as “his gruesome daughter” I knew he loved me but his words sent out a conflicting message that had me learn that it is OK to use sarcasm as a term of endearment. What I learnt at my father’s knee was later echoed in a colleague with whom I was very close. Regular slightly obtuse comments thrown into the conversation that I believe meant she cared, but actually undermined my confidence to a great degree. Even now she will send me the odd text, perfectly pleasant, but then throws in one line that I believe she would see as humorous that leaves me reeling. Any attempt to rebuff them would seem churlish.
So now I know I do it too I want to stop! Tim and I were discussing how I could change this habit, because the truth is I don’t want to leave other people feeling rubbish, I want to leave them feeling good. Especially the people I care about. As Maya Angelo famously said “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We were discussing how it would be good to always try and say something nice to people as my ending. As part of this conversation Tim illustrated an idea. He said to me “In your presence I feel totally accepted and supported”. At least I think that is what he said, because the words almost didn’t matter…they were so powerful I felt a tingle go up and down my body. It wasn’t like a regular complement, it wasn’t a thanks for that, or I like that. It was an incredibly empowering sentence that left me feeling amazing. I had to throw one back. “In your presence I feel like I could achieve whatever I wanted.” Wow! It wasn’t just that he felt those words in saying them to him I felt them too. I rushed home and tried it out on my family. To my daughter “In your presence I feel like such a proud mum.” To my husband “In your presence I feel safe and cared for”. The power for both me and the recipient palpably bouncing around between us. A sentence that has no expectation on the other person, but just freely states a fact. I am so excited by this I had to share this sentence with you. I suggest you check it out as soon as you possibly can.
I thought on this further and wondered if you could say this to absolutely anyone. How far could you extend this amazing phrase? It then occurred to me, why would I choose to spend time with anyone that I wouldn’t use this phrase with. Why would I spend time with people who didn’t in some way make me feel good? So not only do I have a wonderful parting gift to replace my old habit, but I also have a filter to know who I want to spend my time with.
If you do nothing else to day I would encourage you to find someone you like and use the phrase “In your presence I feel…….” If you put some truthful words after it I believe both of you will end up feeling amazing!