Courageous action in the face of fear

M. contacted me through an offer for “cyber-counseling” – an experiment to see if a brief internet exchange might empower new insight and action. Below, you’ll see the touching results. Yaye, M.!

M: “I go to a community club. A friend from there comes to my house and gossips constantly about the people at the club. I am not confident enough to tell her that I am uncomfortable with this. Your response would be much appreciated.”

SS: Thanks for your question. One question for you before I offer support: What is it that you say to yourself, or you’re concerned will happen, if you were to tell her about your discomfort?

M: “I have this thing that I don’t like hurting people. I also feel that I cannot trust her with anything I say because I feel she will tell others what I say and that it is nobody’s business unless I tell them myself.”

SS: Yes, it’s hard to say something when we believe it will hurt the other person’s feelings. We might instead choose “harmony” over our own authentic expression, and especially over our own self-care. Yet then you have a dilemma: Is it better to remain silent and continue to feel discomfort as your friend speaks with you in ways that don’t support your values of kindness and care for others? Or is it better to speak up, and potentially have this friend be angry or hurt, and possibly tell others a misinterpretation of what you’ve said to her, creating more ripples of discomfort?

In this case, you yourself said that you want to talk with her; it’s just that you’re not confident about doing so. The fact is, you’re not comfortable now, so why not be a different-kind-of-uncomfortable while you’re acting in congruence with your values of integrity and respect?

This is where the confidence question comes in: Have you ever wanted to do something that scared you, but you shakily did it, and maybe not as powerfully as you’d hoped? Well, it’s time again!

Here’s what you do:
1. Ask if she’s open to talking about something that might feel a little “vulnerable” or “difficult” (but use your own words!)
2. With her permission then, share specific examples of things she has said to you (not your interpretations of them).
3. Then share your feelings about that – “It feels hard for me to hear these things.” And if you can go one layer deeper, what values are you wishing for? “I really wish we could talk in ways that are more respectful of everyone in our community.” (your words again, though!)
4. Finally, make a request: would you be willing to not talk to me about others in the group?

Short version of #1-4: Share observable facts, their impact on you, and a specific request.

Then, practice is what brings more confidence! Let me know how it goes!

M: “I was full of anxiety but I talked to my friend. I started off by telling her that I hoped she would listen to what I had to say before responding. I told her how uncomfortable I was when she gossips about people and that I did not want to hear these things. She actually responded quite well; she even apologized which is hard to do! She said she would try hard to watch herself around me, and I could remind her if she forgets. I want to thank you for the advice and the extra support to do this.”

SS: Congratulations! “Feel the fear and do it anyway”* is the best definition of courage that I know of. Thank you for your willingness to ask for support, and take courageous action!

*title of book by Susan Jeffers