I binge watched Normal People on Stan last week. Gosh I enjoyed it. And not just because it’s up there with the best sex scenes ever made for TV. I loved the delicate and intimate portrait of the human condition and our deep desire for connection with one another.
Yet despite how much we can feel alive and inspired in relationships, we sabotage them all the time. In the case of the lead characters, Marianne and Connell, they broke up and got back together time after time over the show’s five year timeline. A failure to say what they really wanted and feel what they really felt was always the reason. Until the end, which I won’t reveal for those yet to watch it.
While their chronic communication failures made for compelling watching, it reminded me of how often we cause our own suffering and conflict from withholding what we really want in any situation, including at work. Women tend to do this more than men in salary negotiations for example, which is why in most pay gap analyses I’ve done they get paid 4-8% less than men when starting in the same roles.
Withholding can be a great example of victim consciousness and a common way we go below the line. Often it’s because we’re fearful of being judged or concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, which may happen if we reveal to vent or accuse rather than be understood.
For me, that’s such a work in progress. I’m pretty comfortable having difficult conversations but I’m still working on shifting from a righteous to a curious posture. Like all learning opportunities, it takes practice and helps when there’s a model to follow. I’ve been using Byron Katie’s The Work lots with clients lately, which is helping me embed it in my own life. When I do, the whole conversation changes.