A postcard designed by Tyler Knott, propped up against a plant in the background. The card reads,  ‘And in great decay comes great renewal. Life finds a way out of the darkest spots’.
Card by Tyler Knott (tylerknott.com)

Recently, I sent an email.

The rumours are true.

But, seriously.

I showed up for myself big time by sending an email to someone who had not maintained a safe emotional space that they had initially invited me into. I honoured my self-care and my needs. I could have ‘protected’ the other person by not sending the message (I could have framed as protecting myself as well, as it meant I wouldn’t have had to feel vulnerable in the writing, and sending, of the email). But doing that actually requires me to sacrifice something — my basic human need of self-connection.

The message I sent was not about blaming, but sharing. What is the difference? Glad you asked. It looks something like this…

(Blaming) — “When you do (𝒙), you make me feel (𝒚)”

(Sharing) — “When you did (specific 𝒙), I felt (𝒚)

One (the blamey one) is based in broadstrokes and shortcuts. Blame requires us to relinquish our agency and perpetuate the idea that external occurrences are in charge of our experience. It is based in wanting something in response — an apology, possibly; maybe trying to inspire a certain feeling in the other person to ‘level the emotional playing field’. It requires us to lump all similar, past instances together and that subsequently raises the stakes of the situation.

And the other one (the sharey one) requires specificity and self-agency (which is simple, but not easy). It requires us to witness each moment as one moment, not as just another example of why we are right and they are wrong (which is simple, but not easy). It is based in honesty (which is simple, but not easy) and honouring that you are not responsible for the reactions of others (which is simple, but not easy)**; that you are enough even if the other person doesn’t apologise or feel bad in response to your feelings — say it with me now — which is _______, but not ____. Exactly.

**this is not permission for you to be a dick and be mean for the sake of it. You are responsible for being compassionate and sharing what is true for you in that moment.

You may notice that the self-honouring, powerful vulnerability option (the sharey one) is not always easy.
Maybe I could have emphasised that more.
After all, sharing is based in choosing vulnerability and uncertainty over the habits and learned patterns of behaviour that leads to blaming. If I’m honest, I am noticing that it’s very rarely easy to be vulnerable, it seems. However, I also keep noticing that it is absolutely worth it AND it requires practice.

you are not responsible for the reactions of others

What do you feel when you read this perspective? This is an opportunity to practise sharing in place of blaming, because sharing also counts if you are simply telling yourself what you notice/what you feel (whether you say it in your head or out loud to no-one else). You get to shape what practising looks lie for you; lower the stakes and though it may still not feel easy, you will make it easier rather than trying to practise in the ‘big’ moments.

What do you feel when you read this perspective? I ask twice because whatever you felt the first time I asked does not need to be the answer forever, or for the rest of day. You get to feel different things, and you get to honour those different feelings?

Does the idea of replacing blaming with sharing feel like it’s a million miles away, or are you practising whenever it feels possible? Is it something you’ve heard of or thought about, or have you had a little voice in your head wonder if there is another way of doing difficult conversations? Or any other version of that? Are you curious and confused? Scared and curious? Scared and confused? Excited to try? Has your mind been blown that there is potentially another way of doing communication? It’s all valid, and totally ok to feel anything and everything you are feeling. Curiosity is within all of us, and the fact you read this far means curiosity is knocking on the door and asking if you want to play out. You have chosen vulnerability whether you know it or not because Curiosity in itself is vulnerable. It requires us to step into the unknown of wondering what we need and want and then practising sharing that (even if it’s just with ourselves) without expectation. Curiosity is the key to clear communication and acknowledging that those behavioural habits you learned to feel safe at one point…may not actually be true for you anymore.

And that’s ok.

Feel free to share what came up for you in the comments or send me a message if that feels good to you. Or lower the stakes further if necessary and try sharing what feelings you noticed with yourself.

Much ginger love 🧡

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Paul Sockett

A silly & sensitive storyteller; a word reframer. I am a fierce advocate for Shame- & Scarcity-free choice. 🍦 inspires me: https://ko-fi.com/paulsockett