Earlier this week, fashion designer Oscar de la Renta deftly pointed out the difference between constructive criticism, and a personal attack when he wrote an open letter to fashion critic Cathy Horyn in Women’s Wear Daily. I applaud Mr. de la Renta for the aplomb in which he communicated his displeasure in their “cat(walk) fight,” and this got me thinking about how I interact in my own professional, and personal relationships. Business is business, and I’m usually able to detach emotionally, but personal relationships? Not so easily.”
Not all of us are born with crocodile skin, so the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a complete and utter fallacy! I’m unlikely to let the words of a stranger effect me, but words used as missiles by someone I love and trust can do as much emotional damage, as the physical damage the real thing would do. Sometimes we get angry, and we say things we wished we hadn’t. All relationships go through ups and downs, and sometimes arguments are unavoidable, but did you know there is a right and wrong way to argue?
In fact, this advice would be at the top of my list of things I would say to my twenty-five year old self. I admit it’s much easier to say than do, and I’m still a work in progress, but this is what I have learned so far:
1). Stop, take a deep breath, and don’t react. Take a time out if you can’t let go of the anger yet, and respect the other persons’ need for this if they can’t either. Agree to disagree until you have both cooled off. It is much better to give each other space, than it is to damage a relationship with hurtful words misguided by anger. Once that bell has rung, you cannot un-ring it!
2). Choose your words wisely. Reducing oneself to lashing out with name calling is highly destructive, and unacceptable behavior. Think about why you are upset. Now, how can you describe your grievance in a rational, and preferably non-emotional way? Stop disconnecting between your feelings, and your ability to iterate them with the vocabulary you’ve hopefully achieve by adulthood.
3). If you know me well, you know this is a BIG one for me, but don’t shout. Let’s face it – we raise our voices, because we feel like we are not being heard, but most of us respond to being shouted at by shutting down. You can’t communicate your point of view, if no one is listening.
4). Choose your tone wisely. You probably feel you’re right, and they’re completely wrong, but isn’t communication the goal? Using an indignant or condescending tone is disrespectful of the person you are trying to communicate with, and will likely yield the same result as shouting. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be understood?
5). Always take a hard look at your own part in precipitating the disagreement. “It takes two to tango,” and rarely is it otherwise. Be willing to take responsibility for your part. Learn to forgive both the other person, and yourself, if you want to be able to move past this together. Kiss and make-up!
We are all human, therefore we make mistakes – it’s how you handle them that matters. It’s okay to have disagreements, but learning to communicate constructively is the key to a healthy arguments, and long-lasting relationships. What advice would you have for your twenty-five year old self?
PS. Another piece of advice I’d share with my twenty-five year old self, and anyone for that matter, is to join the Personal Chef Approach™, so you can eat healthy yet sumptuous meals like this Mandarin Kale Salad with Hearts of Palm coming up on our this week’s menu plan. The completely fat free dressing is adapted from a recipe Chef Joe DiMaggio Jr. shared with me. Damn, he’s good!