Choice and judgement go hand in hand
I woke up with a memory from my past life this morning. I was still in a very strict evangelical religion and we were doing an icebreaker at the beginning of a small group study. The icebreaker that particular night was, “If you could be any crayon in the box, which one would you be?”.
I said that I would be the crayon that has different colors in one crayon. This was actually a pretty telling answer for me because I have always felt like I don’t really belong to any one group of people. I have always had trouble fitting in and I was trying to express that I have a loud side and a creative side and a thoughtful side etc.
The pastor’s wife got very irritated with me and said I was cheating. Cheating. Because my answer didn’t fit into the one-color crayon idea she had in her head, I was cheating. She said I was wrong, I was cheating, and I had to pick another crayon.
I find that we do that to one another in life all the time. People do not have ideas or opinions we have so we think they are wrong or bad or broken. And, most of the time, we do not even realize we are doing it. We use words like “should” “must” or “have to” to express our ideas or preferences as if they are fact or as if there is only one way to do something.
So, what do we do?
Well, knowing we all do it and that we are not intentionally trying to be jerks (most of the time) helps. But, it is not enough.
While I believe in and encourage non-violent language and “verbal judo”, I’m not usually one who advocates for trigger-warnings or safe-spaces because, let’s face it, we all have to adapt and get by in the real world.
What I mean is that while it is nice to be aware of our own language and how we speak to each other, we cannot “police” the language of other people, so the work is best done on ourselves.
I work with people who want to learn improved communication skills. I help people learn the difference between “coulds” and “shoulds” in order to be better life partners, better co-workers, and better parents. I help clients see their world from other points of view and help them to learn the difference between their musts and their possibilities.
I also work with highly sensitive people and empaths who want to improve their stress management skills. Clients learn to have better boundaries and how to not take the ideas and opinions of others as facts and criticisms.
Learning to agree to disagree in a world that is constantly trying to put us in black and white boxes is a skill we all benefit from having.
Come to think of it, maybe a better answer to my crayon icebreaker should have been white, since the color white is in fact all colors of the rainbow in one.