Since Thanksgiving holidays highlight food as central, this quote captured my attention. “Eating is aggressive by nature and the implements required for it could quickly become weapons. Table manners are, most basically, a system of taboos designed to ensure that violence remains out of the question.” -Margaret Visser, “The Rituals of Dinner”
Another aspect of meal etiquette is the recommendation that any topic that could trigger digestive upset should be strictly avoided.
Given our explosive political climate, I imagine that particular piece of advice was probably violated more times than anyone wished at many tables yesterday. Therefore, let’s delve into the topic of emotional etiquette and how to navigate difficult relationships.
Do you have friends or relatives that interrupt, invalidate, shut you down, change the subject, give you useless bits of unsolicited advice and to sum it all up, are lousy listeners, aggressively opinionated and insensitive to the thoughts and feelings of anyone but themselves?
Keeping people like this in your life when you hate what is happening is embarrassing. It could bring up a good dose of self-criticism about your inability to stand up for yourself.
If you fight fire with fire, stand up and take them on, you immediately become them. In order to stop them from steamrolling, you invalidate them, make them wrong, explain yourself too much, shut down so that you can withstand the confrontation, make them defensive, therefore, even more aggressive than usual, and for your trouble are left with bad feelings all around.
Removing them from your life won’t work either because on a good day, they are bright, articulate, intelligent, accomplished and are important to you, so the real issue is that their way of showing their caring and concern is hard to take.
We all tend to be more aware of the times when others are insensitive to us than vice-versa. Our insensitivity to others shows up when we are blind to our own insecurities. Part of being human is being insecure. Every successful interaction is a small miracle. We have all been brought up in different emotional climates that we learned to survive in. Teasing, advice giving, invalidating, aggressive questioning, authoritative dictates, and emotional rudeness, are often the fare that we have incorporated into our communication style because that was how we were treated. We learned to model behaviors that were visited on us, or cower and go passive when they show up, delivered by others, today.
This might be a good time to set new standards for ourselves. These new behavioral standards will require us to increase our awareness of our basic needs and desires, as well as examining our commitment to the values of caring, consideration and kindness, that will give us guidelines and direction on how to approach our interpersonal relationships.
Every time we come in contact with someone, it is a new opportunity to connect or to protect. To connect, we must be willing to open ourselves and allow another to glimpse the inner workings of our mind and heart.
A protected stance kills intimacy. Protected conversations have no mystery, no magic and end up as another boring, “talking head” monologue, that makes us long to be transported to the comfort of our own living room.
High-level human relating is an art, not a science. What works one time will not work the next. Therefore, we must care enough about mastering this complicated mind field to put our energy, time, and attention, to achieve positive results.
When we truly accept responsibility for our emotions, the full spectrum of negative to positive, we begin to successfully parent our insecurities. As a result, our emotional nature learns, by right action and repetition, to exhibit impeccable manners and good breeding at the relationship table of life.
Susan is a local writer, produces self-help seminars, and is author of “Beyond Intellect: Journey into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind.” Connect with her at susanvelasquez.com.