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Emotional Etiquette

By Susan McNeal Velasquez.
By Susan McNeal Velasquez.


Do you have friends or relatives that you don’t like talking to because they interrupt, invalidate, shut you down, give you quick and useless bits of unsolicited advice and, to sum it all up, are lousy listeners, emotionally violating, 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 feelings of discomfort about your inability to stand up for yourself and take command of your life.

This is a common dilemma. If you fight fire with fire, stand up and take them to task, you immediately become them. In order to stop them from steamrollering over you, you invalidate, make them wrong or shut down so that you can withstand the confrontation. They become defensive, therefore even more aggressive than usual, and for your trouble you are left with bad feelings all the way around. So, this won’t work.

Removing them from your life won’t work either because, on a good day, they are also bright, articulate, intelligent, accomplished and they love you, so the real issue is that their way of showing their caring and concern is hard to take and off the mark.

I am going to let you in on a secret. Everyone is aggressive sometimes and submissive sometimes and we all tend to be more aware of the times when others are insensitive to us than vice-versa.

Insensitivity to others shows up when we are unaware of 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 those behaviors show up today.

Perhaps it is time to set new standards of behavior for ourselves. These new behavioral standards can be based on an awareness of our basic needs while including specific values of caring, consideration and kindness that can serve as guidelines on how to approach our interpersonal relationships.

Each interaction we have is a one of a kind, never to be repeated in exactly the same way, happening. Every time we come in contact with someone, it is a brand new opportunity to connect or to protect. When our intent is to connect, we must be willing to open ourselves and allow another to glimpse the inner workings of our mind and heart.

Openness makes us vulnerable. Exposing our thoughts and feelings to a person who is judgmental and invalidating puts us in a vulnerable position. When we are vulnerable, we can be hurt. If we approach our interactions from a protected stance, it is impossible to connect on anything but a superficial, mundane level. Pat phrases and rehearsed stories suck the life out of curiosity and interest. Protected conversations have no mystery, no magic and end up as another throw away, boring, talking head monologue that makes us long for the comfort and safety of our own living rooms.

How can we connect with others in a meaningful way, while avoiding becoming an easy target for thoughtless, insensitive comments that kill connection and foster rejection?

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.

Since we are all insecure at certain times, it is a given that all interactions are laced with the potential for feelings of vulnerability, misunderstanding and misinterpretations.

There are two basic ways to handle our insecurities. When we opt to protect ourselves at all costs, we will, usually unconsciously, make the other person pay for our feelings of inadequacy by making thoughtless comments, invalidating them or by putting them on the spot. We take care of our sensitivity needs at their expense.

When we are willing to accept and own our insecurities, we can then make new choices to treat others respectfully and kindly no matter how our feelings fluctuate. This approach acknowledges that we are personally responsible for our own feelings and others are not to blame for creating our discomfort.

When we truly accept and own all of our emotions, the full spectrum of negative to positive, we begin to successfully parent our more insecure feelings. By appropriately managing, listening to, caring for and disciplining our emotionally charged and unexpected feelings, 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 author, facilitator and clarity consultant. Reach her at: susanvelasquez.com



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