“They feel like they are walking on eggshells.” His words literally took my breath away. It brought tears to my eyes and a flush to my face. I was relieved I was wearing a mask. He was talking about me.
To walk on eggshells originates clearly from the imagery. Eggshells are very fragile so it would take great care to walk on them without smashing them. It’s alike to walking on thin ice in reality.
If you’re walking on eggshells around someone, it means that you always have to tread lightly. It may be that you never know what type of mood they’re going to be in so you’re always tiptoeing around to find out. You’re waiting to see what their reaction is before you can decide on what you’re going to do or how you’re going to behave. It just seems like every little thing sets them off and they can go on an emotional tangent that is completely out of proportion or context. You find yourself always wary and over-calculative when you are with them, you are careful of what you do or say so they don’t overreact and get verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive.
Truthfully it has been hard to recover from a less-than-stellar performance review, especially one that I didn’t see coming. Initially, I felt angry, embarrassed, and confused. How do you regain your professional confidence? And how do you make the best use of the critical feedback?
First, I agree that the whole walking-on-eggshells scenario painted above sucks and is counter-productive to any relationship. It is a terrible strategy that harms relationships.
The way we communicate has a deep impact on our relationships with our coworkers and partners. And since many of us spend a lot of time at work, improving our communication can strengthen those relationships and make our work life more enjoyable.
The great Sufi Poet, Rumi, once postured that when considering speaking allow your intended speech to go through three gates first: “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
The challenge is that our lives can be full of pressures and challenges that make it difficult to remain calm and composed. When you are treated unfairly by a manager, vendors don’t follow through on their commitments, deadlines loom and we are faced with unhappy situations, emotions get intense and it’s hard to communicate from a place of calm.
But when we practice the skills of mindful communication, we can create a supportive, respectful environment. We set ourselves up for greater satisfaction in our lives, personal and professional.
The concept of mindful communication has been around for a long time. Centuries later, Rumi’s advice still rings true. The three questions encourage us (me) to take time before we speak.
When life becomes stressful, it is easy to fall into impatience and reactivity. But when we pause, take a few breaths and gather ourselves, we can communicate thoughtfully and more easily consider the impact of our words. Even if what we have to say may sting, we can choose our tone and words with care, expressing ourselves in a way that won’t be hurtful.
So whether you’re speaking to someone in person about a contentious topic or you’re sending an email expressing a difference of opinion, consider what you are about to say and ask yourself “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
Each time we bring gentle awareness to our communication, be it at work or in our personal life, we’re doing the hard work to bring mindfulness into our lives and into the world.
Live Real Aloha!