I was talking to a client the other day, who is very afraid of having a direct conversation with her husband. Things have been steadily improving between the two of the them and so she didn’t want to “rock the boat”. And yet, there are still some things that need to be said. She kept waiting for the perfect moment, to have the perfect conversation, to get the perfect response that would make her feel good.
I had to burst her bubble.
I told her that she was manipulating the situation with all this waiting. Manipulating the situation with the careful scrutiny of every interaction between them and always choosing to go with the flow instead of speaking her mind. She was manipulating the truth, by being silent. She was allowing fear of a potential worse-case scenario outcome, rob her present moments with her husband.
The art of manipulation.
I kept asking her questions.
What do you believe to be true?
What do you need to say?
What are you afraid of?
Are you willing to receive the truth in return?
What outcome do you want?
Why do you want this outcome?
How long are you willing to wait to experience this outcome?
The truth is that she deeply loves her husband. She wants to bring him even closer. To protect their sacred time together, despite their busy lives. She wants presence and real connection with him. She wants to eliminate the unnecessary distractions. She wants to be more vulnerable and more open with him.
She wasn’t able to see that she was working directly against herself. And that waiting to have this direct conversation was postponing what she truly wanted. Her fear about how he might respond was delaying her desired experience for an even deeper connection.
Does this sound familiar?
I’ve done this, plenty of times.
We deny ourselves of the very thing that we want most, because we want to protect ourselves. To be careful with our hearts. To not risk too much. To stay safe. We like to avoid pain and heartbreak and discomfort. But all the protection and worry about what “might” happen manipulates our truth and we move further and further away from what we really want.
So, how do we end a pattern of manipulating?
First, we need to own up to our truth and to be clear about what we really want. We deserve to claim it and to share it. To express ourselves, to be open and vulnerable is about being truly authentic.
Second, we need to accept that other people get to respond and react to us with their truth. And this can be very difficult to accept – to put ourselves out there and maybe not like what we get back. To “rock the boat” means that we may not always get the answer or outcome that we want and sometimes be exactly what we need instead. The upside is that we always know where we stand, even though it may not always feel good in the moment. We stand in our truth and so does the other person. There is no manipulation by either side, complicating or distorting things. The truth always simplifies the situation.
When I think about my brave and amazing client this week, I know that she is preparing to have this conversation with her husband. A conversation that is rooted in her truth and is detached from a particular negative outcome. She is letting go of a need to manipulate the situation ahead of time. She is open to being open. She is curious about how her vulnerability may lead to something unexpected and perfect. She is redefining “rock the boat” to mean something more empowering and inspiring. She is going in – all in. Simple and straight-forward truth telling and I am confident that she is going to be just fine.