When I get frustrated with the mess of my house, I organize my sons’ dresser drawers. Why don’t I clean out my own drawers? Why don’t I even just start with last night’s dinner dishes?
Why? Because it’s easier to clean up someone else’s mess than it is my own. It’s easier to fuss and fume over somebody else’s slobbery, somebody else’s laziness, somebody else’s anything rather than dealing with the fact that I am no better than they are.
In fact, even if I am tidier than the two boys and grown man who share my house (and I am infinitely more so), the reality is I still have 88 things my to do list. 88 items that don’t even speak to things like exercising and other things I need to do to be my best self. But what are 88 things plus a few much needed life changes when I could, instead, focus on the underwear hanging out of my son’s dresser?
Next time you think about being critical of someone else, do a gut check: What am I avoiding by focusing on this other person and her/his issue? My bet is you’ll find you are fixating on somebody else’s “dresser” instead of your own.
Hopefully those of you on the receiving end of our attention can now have a more holistic view of why we’re up in your business. I encourage you to give the following a try the next time your sweetheart is busting your chops about a mess:
“Honey, are you avoiding something in your own life by always fixating on mine?”
Anger will be the first response. What the hell are you talking about? Breathe deeply and respond non-confrontationally.
“I’m not here to argue the facts, sweetheart, only to share a concern that maybe something else is going on for you.”
More anger, bordering on hostility. Why are we talking about me when we should be talking about why your car is such a mess? Time to validate.
“I know it upsets you when my car is a mess. I agree it’s a little gross…”
Expect interruption. Your partner will be in full freak out mode because her own issues are about to be exposed. A LITTLE gross?!
“You’re right. It’s a lot gross.”
I know you are compromising your pride here. Keep your eyes on the prize. If s/he can get clear on the real issue, you may get yourself off the micromanaging hook. Follow your concession with an attempt at a hug, but prepare for the next blow up, Stop being so condescending!
“I’m not, love. I’m just agreeing with you. Maybe this weekend we can work on it together.”
Please note, you are not being condescending. You are also not placating. What you are doing is validating the perspective and honoring it as plausible (which, by the way, you know it is. Your car is disgusting).
S/he won’t know how to handle this new non-defensive you, so give her/him time to take it in by waiting at least an hour, maybe more. Better yet, wait until after you clean out your car together this weekend. The point is, get enough distance from the car issue so that your partner will be receptive to sharing the real issue.
At that point, broach the subject with a compassionate intention. Sure, you want to get her/him to shut the hell up about your car/hair/clothes/friends/life. You also want to help your love through her/his own struggle.
We call this a win-win situation.
And if that doesn’t work, clean out your car. S/he may be avoiding a real issue by being in your business, but I bet you are avoiding something else by not cleaning up after yourself.
At least, that’s what I tell myself. I guess I should be spending more time talking to myself about my real issue rather then being in your business.
Damn those dresser drawers.