During a meeting that I attended a couple of days ago, I had a temper tantrum. I shouted and swore at the facilitator.
As soon as I'd done it, I felt ashamed of my behaviour and apologized.
Luckily it didn't phase the facilitator. As a matter of fact, she gave me a ride home after the meeting, and was perfectly friendly.
But that isn't the point. What's more relevant is that I am deeply committed to compassionate communication, and I violated my own principles.
Only a week previously, I'd participated in a two-day conflict resolution workshop. I did a consensus decision making workshop in September, and I'm registered for another one in April. One of my favourite books is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
Yet, when it felt to me as if one of my core buttons was being pushed, the blood rushed to my head, and I lashed out.
When I later recalled what I'd said, I was grateful for a couple of things. First of all, I had used I statements. Secondly, I had criticized the facilitator's behaviour (or at least my perception of her behaviour). I had not called her names or questioned her integrity as a person.
Of course that doesn't excuse my behaviour. I consider it to have been totally unacceptable.
I have been going over the incident in an effort to recognize the dynamics, learn from it, and be better prepared when a similar situation arises in future.
I have tried to avoid beating up on myself, as that would only compound the problem. I've tried to accept that I'm imperfect and to forgive myself.
In our Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community meetings, which was where this happened, we have a beautiful tool that is designed to address this very scenario. Each meeting participant has three cards.
When a meeting participant holds up a green card, it means, "I agree," or, "I have information to contribute." A yellow card means, "I have a question," or, "I have a concern." A red card means, "I disagree," or, "There is something terribly wrong going on here."
When a participant holds up a red card, the facilitator is obliged to stop the main discussion so that the issue can be addressed. If I had remembered to use it, that one thing -- a little red card -- would have created a very different outcome.
I also forgot to maintain an attitude of curiosity. Instead, I jumped to conclusions about the facilitator's intentions.
In the interim, I have thought of a way of tweaking the meeting process so that it will accomplish what the facilitator wants while at the same time addressing my needs. I will suggest it to her before our next meeting.
Interestingly enough, I once again have found myself playing leap frog with another blogger. Yesterday there was an entry entitled Control on the Sensible Living blog. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "Oh, Annie, you've read my mind."