Get Curious about Broken Agreements
When someone doesn’t keep their agreement with you, the first thought you might have is “They should do what they say they are going to do!” Anger or irritation follows close behind.
Anger is an important emotion that signals needs are up for you. In the case of a broken agreement, you likely have needs for trust, predictability, and consideration.
If you understand anger as a signal, it cues you to look inside and see what’s important to you. If you don’t have this understanding, you are likely to express anger in an indirect way. Intuitively we all know that if someone is angry, they are judging. So even if you use NVC words and syntax, you can stimulate defensiveness in the other person when you are holding anger.
One gem reader gives an account of this predicament:
“Living with many roommates, we had meetings and we agreed to do our part to keep the house clean. Often times others wouldn't do their part, and I did, which didn't meet my need for fairness. So, I felt the need to voice this need to them, but it took a lot of energy to get up the courage to say something cause I feared they would hear criticism. And they often did... On the other hand if I didn't get the courage to speak to the person, I would build up resentment inside.”
As long as our gem reader is holding the thought, “They should be doing their part,” she will be feeling anger and her roommates will likely hear her judgment of them.
The secret is moving to acknowledgment of what is and then getting curious. This means getting to the place inside of you where you can let go of the should and feel the sadness of things not going as you would like. This acknowledgment of what is true makes a space for curiousity. Instead of judging your roommates as lazy or irresponsible, you can ask some questions. “What’s getting in the way of making this work?” “How could it be set up differently?” “What’s going on for my roommates that has them not keeping their agreement?”
You might say to your roommates,
“When I think about our plans for chores and I see the floor has leaves and dirt and the bathrooms with hair in the sink and grime in the toilet, I feel sad and disappointed because I want a sense of community around keeping the house clean. I ‘m also curious about how we can create a plan that really works for everyone. I am wondering what’s going on for other folks around our chore plan or the state of the house, what do you see that’s working or not working for you?”
This hopefully opens a dialogue that is a bit more connected and relaxed. It may be that your roommates have other priorities and are just fine with the level of mess. This is important information for you to have and important for them to be able to say rather than making agreements they won’t keep.
Whether it is with broken agreements or other behaviors that stimulate judgment and anger, curiosity about the other person’s world can help you find your way to compassion.
I often find that if I am starting to judge someone just asking the question “I wonder what’s going on for them?” can bring me back to my heart.
This week notice when you feel irritated or angry with someone. Experiment with getting curious about their world. If you still find yourself angry, ask yourself what needs are important to you and let yourself feel the sadness of those needs not being met in that situation. Then try again to get curious.
***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs