Monday, December 7, 2009

Reacting vs. responding

In a nutshell, relating to people is very very hard. There are so many dynamics involved. Words can be taken one way or another. Facial and/or body expressions can be misinterpreted. Tone of voice can evoke positive or negative reactions. Even the ability to 'understand' one another is complex.

So, what's a girl to do with all of this? Hormones aside (is that even possible) I desire to communicate well, and to convey my messages clearly. Why does it have to be so hard! Sometimes I think I'd be happier if I just stayed here, behind my computer screen, rather than trying to make my way in the real world. What a silly thing to consider. Of course I have to get 'out there', but I need a healthy dose of courage to do so.

If you are anything like me, then you too might have some of these same inter-relational challenges. Whether it's communicating with your spouse, your children, your friends, or the various people you come in contact with each day, there's an overabundance of lessons to be potentially learned about relating to one another. And I'm pretty dense sometimes when it comes to lessons. But once in a blue moon I get it right. And maybe with age and 'wisdom' I'm getting it right more often than wrong… maybe??? I can't say for sure.

Take this morning for example. We've been anticipating the arrival of our carpet for weeks. Selecting the right colour, texture, price point was a process in itself (oh, fyi, we are finally finishing our basement after 10 years of raw drywall and concrete). So, when the order was placed and the installation date set, there was much excitement in our home. The kids can hardly wait to have a little spreading out space… not just for them, but certainly a place to hang out with friends that's somewhat separate from the adult spaces upstairs. The basement (I've tried to come up with a better name than that… any suggestions?) will have that kid space plus a guest room that has been pre-booked for the entire Christmas Season.

The carpet arrived two weeks ago… the first carpet, that is. It was damaged by a forklift in transit, and sent back to the factory. We re-ordered and waited. The second carpet arrived this morning, and I knew something was wrong when John, the installer, called me downstairs to "take a look at something". The fibers were 'bent' and 'puddled' (according to John) and the result was a huge 8 foot circle of dis-coloured carpet. My heart sank.

We are making plans based upon that carpet being installed… Christmas parties, family coming to stay in the new guest room, friends coming to hang out and enjoy the new space.

All the while John and I talked about the carpet problem I focused on him and the other people involved and my relationship with them (however superficial). I could have ranted, I could have raved. But, the words of my dear friend and mentor kept coming to mind, "Are you going to react, or respond?" Well, Lesley-Anne, what's it going to be? Act like a spoiled entitled home owner who deserves a better rug than this, who paid so much money and got this, who can't believe they 'still' haven't got it right? NO! Not this time anyway. We'll wait for the third carpet… we'll treat John like a human being and wait.

My point, well… I guess it's that at the end of the day the carpet doesn't really matter. It does, but it doesn't, if you know what I mean. We survived before we had one, and we'll survive without one… for a few more days, a couple more weeks… or whatever. What matters is the people who cross my path and how I treat them. And, for today, I'm choosing to treat them like human beings who make mistakes. Just like I make mistakes… all the time!

Now if I could just translate what happened in the discourse over the carpet to the relationships closer to me, then I would be happy. This morning I had a conversation with my daughter that was definitely more about reacting than responding. And I still feel badly about that.

Falling on God's grace and the grace of those around me,



  1. I have a similar story except ours invloved a new addition to our home in the form of a master bedroom and family room. The carpet arrived and as the installer unrolled it and started to cut it I stopped him. The color was wrong. He argued a bit and confirmed that the tags and all the paperwork said "mocha" but it turned out it was mislabeled. What we got was mocha with a whole lot of cream...several shades lighter than what we ordered. This was just a week before Christmas. I also had to choose to respond with grace instead of reacting. It really wasn't anyone's fault at our end. It was a mistake done at the factory and until it was unrolled no one had any way of knowing.

    Good for you for choosing grace.

  2. So sorry about the carpet. I'm finding that as long as we live there will be lessons to learn. Thanks for the reminder to us about responding and not reacting ~ a lesson that merits our attention over and over again.

  3. As usual a timely post on your part Lesley-Anne! I have to say I find email communication to be the more mistinterpreted type of communication in my experience, but hairdressers and my husband also provide me with challenges. Thanks for the comforting feeling that I'm not alone!

  4. That's is very good for the mental health as well,when we react a lot of ourselves are lost,responding keeps our cool and we are less in the spell of stress.



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