From the back seat, he coached me, “Mom, you should apologize to Dad”.
I had just finished snapping an abrupt and snappish response to the driver of the car, who was also, um, my husband. I knew what I had done was wrong, but I was more focused on being mad, defensive, and frustrated. But then, given the prompt, I realize I’ve been a total heel, and so I did as I was told.
After 5 minutes of silence, another piece of advice: “Dad, you should accept Mom’s apology, cause that’ll make you both feel better”. So hubby does.
But the thing that saved me (well, realistically, us) was asking for help. I am aware at how short-fused I can be, and that I want to “use my words” rather than be snappish. So, I had asked my son for help a few days before this scene.
I told him that I can’t change something that I can’t really see. And because I hate this particular behavior I do, I tend to not acknowledge that I’m even doing it, to myself or anyone else. (For insight on this dynamic, just read Kathryn Schultz
great, phenomenal book on Being Wrong.) So, I had asked if he could help me know when I did it… and he started pointing it out. Sometimes I get yelled at from across the room, sometimes he tugs at my sleeve to tell me I’m doing it, and several times, he’s come over and covered my mouth with his hands. As if to say, shhh to all this snappishness. All of this is his effort to help me. And it works pretty well. It gives me the immediate feedback I am looking for. And while I’m certainly not perfect — not nearly — around this snappishness issue, I’m certainly getting clearer when I am doing it so I can practice being more kind in my words, and especially, my tone.
It’s a funny thing, asking for help. I remember how I used to wish I “didn’t have to”. Doing so used to evoke a feeling for me of the many poor people in India, where I was born, with hands out. Asking for help was equivalent to being needy. And who wants to be needy? I thought of it for the longest time as a weakness with someone holding power over me as if I was in a cage and I needed them to set me free. Even worse, it evokes for me a sense of dependency on others.
Perhaps what limited in the past was that, back then, I felt the need to “prove something”. Or perhaps I was still unclear how to trust other people to care for my interests alongside their own. I know I used to give plenty of help but then “secretly” hope others would help back. Which is neither effective, nor upfront.
I don’t know how exactly my perspective changed, but life experiences have a way of doing that, don’t they? Asking for help can be a sign of great strength. Just in the act of naming something that I want to be better at, I am closer to my goal of attaining it. Asking for help creates this invitation to claim for myself that which is important, but it also adds a learning loop, which often brings with it a system of tools and measurements.
Instead of being dependent on others, asking for help is actually a way to say “we are interdependent”. It is saying that the system we have together (in this case a family but for sure this also relates to work dynamics also), is something we co-create. To ask for help brings people closer together because then “we” are working on a problem together. It builds trust amongst people actually because it shows a vulnerability. And that connects us a way that facts and the jockey of position does not. And to be quite frank, I am in need. I need help to learn and grow and become more the person I aspire to be…At work, I need to build and shape ideas so they can help us win in the marketplace. I do need others. And we need each other. That is how the world actually works.
So now, this is my truth: rather than doing alone that which I cannot do alone (you do see the irony of that, right?), I ask for help. Because I want to be better. Because I want to build bigger ideas. Because it is necessary in the end for growth.
And, I take the help when it is given, too. This seems worth pointing out explicitly. It is this delicious combination that I credit as key to almost all my forward motion.
I wonder if it’s the same for you? Do you ask for help? (enough?) Is there something you want to ask for help on now? Who would you ask it of?