By Cheryl Ryan
It’s here, Inauguration Day. I can’t believe I’m starting a post this way. Most Inaugurations I barely noticed. I watched the highlights on the nightly news but that’s it. Not this year though, I can’t imagine there is an American that doesn’t have an eye on the Inauguration no matter which side of the aisle you land. I can honestly say that I can’t remember a more tumultuous political period in my lifetime. No matter how hard we work to avoid political talk, especially with those of differing opinions, it’s just unavoidable these days. As much as I don’t want to get political here it also seems disingenuous of me to ignore it entirely because the truth is we’re all in it whether we want to be or not.
This is why I’d like to share a text that I received last week.
I’m in a book group that has been meeting for 25 years. We’ve been through raising families, going through divorces, changing jobs, hobbies after kids, our kids having kids, we’ve even been through cancer scares and cancer loss together. Throughout the years each of us has touched one another in a meaningful way.
Some months back I received a text from a friend in my group. She simply asked if we could get together to talk in her back yard. This wasn’t common for us. I figured it must be something more important than our latest book but I’ve learned that often the things we think may be troubling someone can be something entirely different. So I texted back sure and went to see her a couple of days later.
I had 30 minutes before my next appointment. She began by telling me that four years earlier I said something that hurt her feelings and she wanted to clear the air. It was basically that when she wanted to discuss our differing political views about the President I told her that I didn’t want to talk to her about it. She found my tone and words dismissive and was hurt. As I listened I realized that she wasn’t the only one that I’d said that to. I apologized for making her feel that way. And that’s all it took. We spent time discussing each of our feelings and the reasons for them.
While talking I received a text that my next appointment canceled and with the unexpected time we continued to talk for almost 2 hours. We talked about health, how she ended up at a fundamentalist Christian college as a young woman, some history and reasons that each of us came to our politics, feelings and thoughts about the church, racism and women’s rights. Some very meaty stuff and all because she had the courage to discuss how I made her feel.
I’m not that courageous. I didn’t learn great conflict resolution skills growing up and it appears that even my conflict avoidance skills leave something to be desired. When I asked my friend if I could use our text exchange for an Inaguaration post she said sure and then texted ‘I’m really proud of us!’’ And I feel the same. I can honestly say that we both listened with curiosity and care and didn’t try to persuade each other of anything. We just listened and came out so much stronger for it.
How do you handle tough conversations? Do you have any that come to mind?