My ex-girlfriend called me and said the most popular lead in to a bad conversation, “We Need to Talk”. I told her to give me a few minutes to finish some “man stuff”, and then we can talk. 30 minutes later she walks in my office and knocks unusually hard on the door. I look up from my computer to see her standing there with the most intense look of anger. Her body language screamed, “I’m not happy”.
What I saw (in my head) right next to her was a five-gallon gas can and small blowtorch.
We held each other’s intense stare for a few seconds before she repeated the words, “We Need to Talk”, as she placed the gas can and blowtorch on the table, almost directly between us. I had to slide to gas can and torch over a little just in order to be able to see her and to reach over and touch her.
The conversation lasted for just over an hour, before I decided it was a no win for me. I noticed every time the conversation shifted towards any area of discomfort for her, she would either light the torch or start playing with the gas can.
As you can imagine this not only made me scared, it also made me wants to protect and defend myself in every way from her. Under that type of duress most people are going to say or do whatever makes the gas can and torch go away. Even if it causes them to have to do or say something they don’t want to or really mean.
I’m sure you can guess that our little talk didn’t go well for either of us. We both walked away feeling worst than we did before we started the talk. When the true intention of the talk was to clear something up, fix something, or just reassuring someone of your love. Why did things go the exact opposite of what both me and her really wanted?
Hear is my perspective. In the story the gas can and torch represented her hurt and anger, which can be reduced to Fear. My ex-girlfriend brought so much hurt and anger to the talk, that it was doomed from the start.
The minute I got present to her hurt and anger, it was fight or flight for me. I felt like protecting myself was more important than easing her pain. So the talk fell totally apart. We ended up hurting each other even more, because hurt people, hurt people.
Here is the takeaway message for my cliff note fans, the next time you approach a loved one to have a talk intended to somehow improve your relationship. Leave your gas can (hurt) and blow torch (anger) out of it.
If you bring years of back hurt and pain to a current talk there it’s more likely to go south real fast.
Don’t bring anything that could hurt someone to a peace summit.