So July’s Fresh Air Fridays theme was “Comfort Zone”. My initial thoughts were that I was already pushing outside my comfort zone. I have recently become self-employed and am quickly acquiring many new skills as a result. But when I looked deeper and explored areas in my life where I could stretch myself a bit further I noticed something new.
The uncomfortable truth
I am involved in various community groups around where I live and therefore need to work with a wide variety of people. There was one relationship that stood out to me as being tricky and caused me great anxiety whenever I needed to interact or communicate with them. I found things this person did or did not do frustrating. When I took the time to think about this with another Fresh Air Fridays facilitator, I realised something. It was the situation rather than the individual that I had an issue with. Over time I had allowed the two things (the person and the circumstances) to become collapsed until I could only see them as one thing rather than two distinct elements.
The “Comfort Zone” action I chose for myself was to clear the air. I procrastinated around writing and sending the message. Had it not been for the support of the other facilitator (they were going to check with me that I’d done it) I most likely would not have sent the message, resulting in the same awkward and unsatisfactory situation as before.
It was an uncomfortable experience because I had nowhere to hide from my own humanity. Many of my questions and requests directed at this person, I now saw, had been pushy and coming from a place of frustration. Trying to force outcomes and make stuff happen as I understood or expected it to be. I imagined that the impact on the other person had been to belittle and undermine. Yeah I know, not nice!
I took responsibility for my actions, which I had previously told myself were well intentioned, and made a genuine apology. Being honest and taking care to think about their point of view and how it might have been to be in their shoes. I was embarrassed to admit how I had behaved, but the other person had also been there in those interactions. They already knew how I had acted, so the reality of it was overwhelmingly liberating.
“Truth doesn’t have to be liked. It only has to be spoken. Speak it out. The truth may hurt you, but it will set you free.” – Amish Tripathi
I was clear to create a new possibility of working together towards a common goal. It became obvious to me that if I wanted to be effective within that organisation then I needed to work effectively with everyone within it. I feel I have learnt a valuable lesson here.
Unattached to the outcome
I sent the message and felt anxious about when or if I might get a reply. Then I reconciled myself to the belief that I had done my part to take responsibility and make amends. Therefore I could accept whatever may or may not result from it. It really was as simple as that.
To my surprise I got a response and I was unprepared for the gratitude this person expressed. I had not appreciated that this was not just about me, crazy I know! It made me realise that my actions had a positive impact on both of us. Moving forward I feel a sense of relief and freedom. I no longer dread seeing or working with this individual. By apologising for my actions and acknowledging this person for their dedication and passion, I now see this individual in a totally new light. I can be generous in my thinking of them, which can only be of benefit to both of us and our community. Without my engagment with everything Fresh Air Fridays is about I would never have done this. It makes me wonder what else I might discover and what other positive and unexpected outcomes await, exciting!
“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” – Michael John Bobak