One of the most frustrating things in the world is “being left on read.” It’s been meme’d, joked about, and always vented about. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end, but it IS okay to read a volatile message and not respond… After all if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.
I was once told that an argument is not started by the first person to speak, but the second. The first person is addressing a feeling, a situation. The second person decides how that translates going forward. Do you respond negatively? Do you engage in a disagreement? Do you fight back? That’s how an argument is started. Do you apologize? Do you validate their feelings? Do you diffuse their anger? That’s how avoiding an argument is attempted.
There’s a third option: do not engage at all.
When tempers and emotions run high people don’t always hear words, they hear tone. It doesn’t matter what you say to make things right if someone is hurt badly enough. It’s okay to use your judgement and determine that there needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period before you can work things out. Striking when the kettle is hot induces burns. It’s okay to let the kettle blow off some steam and cool down before you try to pour your tea.
Unfortunately, I’m living this today. Someone I care very much about it upset with me. I feel strongly she has misdirected anger, but she clearly feels differently. When I opened her very angry facebook message last night, I simply bid her goodnight and turned my phone off. I’ve been unplugged since. I’ve focused on resting, spending time with my children and getting work done for Kate and the Kids. It’s not only the angry party who needs to calm down. It’s the second person to speak. In this situation, that will be me. I decide if this is going to be an argument. My reaction sets the tone for our road of fixing our issue. I need the time to cool off as much as she does. I like to take this time to walk away from the issue and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I return, I can tackle the problem more objectively.
I’m not sure yet how this will play out, and I doubt I’ll ever post the resolution. The specifics are private and irrelevant. The best I can do is work on myself, and try to respond in a way that will make things better and not worse.
No matter how things go, I will not waver on my belief that it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to say nothing, to take a break without explanation. In the moment it’s absolutely frustrating, but I’d rather have my mind race with terrible words until they turn not so terrible. Once those terrible words are actually spoken, they can’t be taken back. It’s better to let them diffuse in your brain than say something you’ll regret later.
Of course I’m wondering what kind of hell is waiting in my inbox. Who knows what I’ll walk into when I do turn my phone back on. I’m seriously considering just clearing the conversation without reading any of it and starting fresh. Right now, I just have the image of Spongebob and Flatts during their fight- Flatts swinging and punching, wearing himself out while the sponge just painlessly absorbs the blows. I’d rather have my inbox absorb the blows than my spirit.
It’s okay to not engage. It’s okay to let people tucker themselves out with their own anger before you work on resolving an issue. You have to make yourself a priority. You can’t control other people or what they say. You can only control your own words and actions. You have to decide what environment will bring out the best you, even if that environment isn’t the one you’re currently in.
I pray that your arguments are few and far between, but if you do encounter an issue that you put your own mental health first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t fix a problem if you’re still broken. Take time to get yourself together first.
Fingers crossed that this issue is left in 2018, either way I’m holding my head high and going into 2019 with my best, most positive self.
Happy New Year, may this year find you healthier than ever- mind, body and soul.
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.