Y’all ever been accused of something? Falsely, I mean. Or falsely in your eyes, anyway.
Take a minute to think about it.
Cue Jeopardy music.
Let your cheeks get pink. Let your eyes get wet. Let your hands start to sweat. Let that anger start in your stomach and rise up your neck.
So, you know what I’m talking about? Good, we’re on the same page now.
Being accused of something that you see as false might be one of the most frustrating things on this planet. It might be one of the most emotionally draining things you’ll ever experience. You’ll get all the feelings. No positive ones, mind you…ALL the negative feelings! Anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, denial, more anger, more frustration, more confusion…not in that particular order, but y’all are with me! When someone says something about your behavior or your character or your work ethic or your parenting or your beliefs…WHEW!! Watch out, buddy–you just lit a bottle rocket and it’s gonna explode in your face!
In my relatively short life–haha, I know you know I’m not young–I’ve experienced my share of false accusations. I’ve had people attack my work ethic, my behavior, my parenting, and my character. And let me tell you…I felt all the feelings. All. The. Feelings. It seems as if you go through the processes highlighted by various support groups, like A.A. and N.A. Denial. Support. Etc…Maybe that’s why those groups are so valuable and effective. They teach adults the life skills so they can handle difficult situations.
I am not an expert on the 12 Steps, but I have had friends and family members who have benefited from the program and the relationships made in the program. It’s a way of life, a paradigm shift that is so valuable to people. People. All people. Don’t think I’m making light of this, at all. I’m not. I’m making use of it. I think that we can apply the general outline of the steps to any problem that we face.
Think about it…we’re talking about accusations. You with me? Let’s dig…
First is admitting you have a problem. In this case (one of an accusation), someone else has identified your problem for you. They have done the first step for you. Isn’t that thoughtful? They have highlighted something you did or said or didn’t do or didn’t say as offensive, wrong, too much, or not enough.
Next comes the denial. They threw out the accusation, and it’s your turn to respond. They may have identified your problem in a direct manner or an indirect manner; they may have had emotion tied to it or been totally unemotional. You could feel hurt or angry or embarrassed or confused. Sooooo, you take those emotions and deny. Deny, deny, deny. “I didn’t do that.” “I didn’t mean it that way.” “You misunderstood me.” “That wasn’t me.” There are numerous ways you could respond.
Now, the immature denier–or narcissisti,c if we’re talking about certain people near and dear to the Devil–would stop there. They would stall there at denial. Then, the situation would come back to the accuser so hard and fast…like a catcher trying to make an out on second.
For those of us who have some maturity and compassion for the human race, admitting that there is some truth to what the accuser has claimed would be the next step. You’ve had time to deny the issue…and you’ve had time to process the information. The emotions. You’ve had time to reflect. Empathy kicks in and you start to ask yourself: did I? Could what I did or said have been taken that way?
If you have a strong village, you may reach out for advice or insight. I have a team of people in my village. They’ve had various life experiences and are always open to let me “pick their brains.” There’s a level of trust in a village. You can count on those people–YOUR PEOPLE–to tell you the truth. Even if it’s not exactly what you thought or wanted to hear. Your people will step up and be truthful. Truthful and caring.
Then, we make ammends. We go back to the accuser and discuss it. We admit our faults and explain our thinking. A resolution is made and all is well.
All is well, right?!?!
I mean, on paper it looks and sounds so simple. So black and white. So procedural.
Identify. Deny. Admit. Get support. Make ammends. That seems SO EASY! But it’s SO not! Why?? EMOTIONS. Emotions are why. Emotions make everything amplified. Emotions make everything deeper. Maybe you don’t want to hurt feelings; maybe you hate to see others cry; maybe you’re scared. Scared to lose someone or scared to have that hard conversation. But what happens if you don’t? What happens if you bottle it up and leave it unaddressed? Do you go to that mind cave I mentioned a couple months back? Do you put the issue in a box on your shelf and seal it, only to have it explode open in the future?
I’m a pretty reflective person. I’m a big girl. I don’t have a problem putting on my big girl pants and dealing with stuff. As long as I’m allowed process time, I’m generally open to hearing your take on my wrong-doings. I think, as adults, we sometimes expect certain allowances…certain grace…but we don’t always give it. We expect others to understand that WE see things through a lense of who WE are, but sometimes we don’t expect others to do the same. Now, read that again. THAT, my friends, sounds crazy. How can we expect others to let us process information through our emotions, our experiences, our mess but get defensive or upset when those same others do the same processing?
I mean, I’m speaking for myself and asking for a friend.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just give people grace? Have some empathy? Ok, easier might not be the right word. It IS harder to give people grace. It IS harder to have empathy. It takes lots of thinking and reflecting and trust. It also takes confidence…confidence to be ok if the resolution isn’t what you anticipated. To be ok AND still be able to make amends.
I teach my kindergarteners two different processes for problem-solving: Win-Win Guidelines and I-Messages. I know it sounds elementary, my dear Watson. But sometimes we teach adults through children. Mr. Rogers did it.
The Win-Win Guidelines are a set of argument rules. You start with an I-Message–‘I felt jealous when you…’ ‘I was sad when you…’ ‘I was confused by your…’ All of the messages start with I. That softens the blow of the accusation following it–‘I felt jealous when you flirted with that girl in the belly shirt.’ ‘I was sad when you said you didn’t care about my boring work presentation.’ ‘I was confused by your ignorant comment regarding the impeachment.’ I mean, don’t get fired up–I’m just giving examples! Anyway, when you use an I-Message, the person being attacked (for lack of a better term) isn’t immediately on their defense. They aren’t on edge, waiting to deny and strike back.
Then, the listener (the person with the problem) is supposed to repeat the I-Message. ‘I heard what you said. You said you felt angry when I didn’t back you up in that argument with my mom.’ Repeating the statement gives the accuser some validation. It lets them know that you heard them and there’s value in what they said.
Once the message has been given and repeated, then the people find a solution and make amends. The solution is a win-win, though. Don’t forget that. It’s a WIN-WIN. Not a lose-win, not a win-lose, not a lose-lose. Days of silence is a lose-lose. “Ok-you’re-right” is a win-lose. “I don’t have anything to say” is a lose-win. PEOPLE! A Win-Win is when both parties win. It’s a compromise.
Remember, the accuser has been heard and validated. The accused hasn’t been attacked. So, we’re already on the right track from jump! The discussion that follows should be calmer and less emotional. There it is…less emotional. That’s how stuff gets settled.
A kindergarten approach is elementary, I know. But it’s a novel idea, right?