Why People Want to Give Us a Second Chance

 In Blog, Effective Dialogue

… and what to do if they don’t

(Time to read: ~3 minutes)

I’m a hot-head. Ever since I was little, I have had a quickly-triggered temper, and a tongue that seemed directly connected to my anger.

If NVC was only effective if I got it right the first time, I would have given up on it a long time ago.

But I think its greatest gift to me is the realization that an argument or painful conversation is never over until I give up.

That I can go back to the person to whom I spoke in anger, express my regret, be willing to hear and empathize with their pain, and we can come out of the experience more deeply and compassionately connected than before.

The Giant Scorecard

This seems very different than a belief I developed in childhood – that I had to be perfect or people would shun and reject me.

Maybe because of this belief, I’ve felt a bit frightened or anxious that maybe there is some giant scorecard somewhere, and I get a certain number of “strikes” and if I mess up more times than that, then I’ll be “out” and alone.

But recently I’ve gotten an inkling of why so many people I’ve encountered have been so generous with their second chances (and third and fourth and beyond), and I’m feeling less anxious.

I think it is because it feels so good to feel connected to other people.

It’s what I love about the image that accompanies this post. When I hold two electrical cords connected to a single power source, I can feel the energy flowing through them. And when I am compassionately connected to another person, I feel that same alive charge in my heart.

And feeling disconnected is so painful – it’s like a wound or injury in our body that will not heal. We may find ways to “live around the pain”, but then something will happen that touches that unhealed situation or relationship, and we’ll feel the pain all over again.

So when I’ve messed up, other people also want to heal the rift between us, because it feels better for them. As a result, they’re so often willing to meet me part way and help me do that.

But What If They Don’t?

Yes, I do have people in my life who are not communicating with me at this time, and that I’m guessing are still angry or hurt when they think of something I have said or done. I have three ways of dealing with this:

  1. I think of these as situations in which we have not reconnected yet. And I trust that when they receive enough empathy for their pain, they will naturally want to reconnect with me. Just like when winter is over, seeds naturally sprout and reach for the sun.
    And their lives may be busy and full enough that they may not choose to take the time to reach out and tell me that they are now feeling peacefully connected to me. And I trust that I will know.
  2. I believe that the reason for people staying angry or hurt is because something that I said triggered some painful self-judgments in them (e.g., that they are stupid, or not worthy of love or respect).
    So they are reacting, not to what I said, but to what some part of themselves is saying to them.
    So, even if the other person is not communicating with me, I seek to hold them in my heart as beautiful and lovable and perfect. To hold them with the appreciative compassion with which I want them to hold themselves.
  3. The other thing I do is to monitor myself. To notice if any angry, or hurt, or anxious, or frustrated thoughts or feelings come up for me when I think of them.
    Because even if I’ve worked through them once, they sometimes re-emerge, as the circumstances of my life change.
    And if some of those “negative” thoughts and feelings have arisen, to do my own inner work.
    To discover the thoughts, and fears, and judgments of myself that are getting in the way of my feeling compassionately connected to them. And to use the processes I’ve learned and teach – to shift to a place of peaceful, compassionate connection to myself first, so that I can return to a place of feeling peaceful, caring, and connected to them.

What About You?

  • What comes up for you when someone is angry or hurt when they think of something you’ve done?
  • Do you have the tools and support to hold both them and yourself with peaceful compassion?
  • If you would like to learn the tools that I find so helpful in my life,
    you can read about the courses I offer here.
    Note: For this inner work, I strongly recommend that you choose the private one-on-one option for the Advanced Level 1 Course – it is so much more effective, and I’m currently offering it at the same price as the group option. The price for this option will be increasingly significantly this summer, and I will probably stop offering it as a group session after the April 13-14 course.
  • If you already know the tools, but you realize you would like individual support, or the support of a community, I offer
    – private coaching sessions scheduled at your convenience.
    To check my availability and/or sign up for a time, click here
    – group practice sessions once a month. For info click here / To register, send me an email
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