I drove down to Pittsburgh for a conference. While planning this trip, I
decided that mid-way through my 6 hour drive to Pittsburgh I would stop and
hike (solo). I mentioned this plan to my parents, who became extremely
concerned, and then in the weeks leading up to my trip frequently asked me to
answer many questions about my preparedness, made suggestions about how I
change my trip, and suggested I reconsider hiking at all.
While I appreciated that their response came from a very loving place and concern for my safety, because of the ongoing nature of their response I ultimately ended up feeling un-trusted and un-respected. I am usually an avoider of confrontation, especially when I am the one to initiate the conversation. But this situation caused me so much frustration and distress that I felt driven to act. So, I took some time to reflect on how I was feeling, what my parents need from me, and what I need from them, and wrote down and organized my thoughts. During a lunch hour I closed my office door and practiced what I wanted to say to make sure I was clear and fair. And then, with my heart pounding out of my chest, I called my parents and asked if I could come over for a visit.
At their house, I explained I wanted to address their concerns about my hike. I stayed calm and stuck to my plan, I explained how I felt, validated their concerns, and articulated my needs. I was so encouraged when my parents took it very well! We had an open discussion about our feelings, and I believe we all felt heard in the end.
And so, the next day, I found myself hiking confidently, without an emotional weight on my shoulders, and with a mutually-agreed on plan for letting my parents know I was safe. Beyond that, I felt lighter – I had created a productive conversation that led to mutual understanding, I set some boundaries, and I think we achieved some progress in our relationship. I enjoyed the sunshine, the trail, and hiked off into the sunset as it were (though it was noon :D).
Thank you for the story Rebecca. I think many of us can identify with it in one way or another. Here's my interpretation:
Trigger – parent’s frequent questions and suggestions triggered feelings of not being trusted or respected
Problem – non-confrontational nature
Quest- search for a way to express feelings to parents in a way that addressed everyone’s needs
Resolution- reflection, composure, thoughtfulness, validation, and articulation
Purpose- growth in relationship