“How dare she talk to me this way?”
It was evening, I was sitting in my comfortable chair working on my laptop. I heard my wife’s voice and she said something like “Maz, the French TV is not working! Clea says you played around with it yesterday!” I felt the frustration and anger in her voice.
I didn’t take it well at all. I found myself telling myself “I cannot be the cause of the French TV not working. If you push the standby button, like I did, you do not break it!” And there was a mood/tone underlying all this. What was this tone? ”How dare she talk to me this way!”
People are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You”
There and then I was in a place of no power. None at all. I was in my head telling myself that my wife was wrong, that I was not the cause of her problems, and that she was wrong for making me wrong. I noticed that one minute I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. And the other minute I was feeling angry with my wife.
Then the word of Marshall Rosenberg came back to me. These word went something like “Be yourself, be true to yourself, be true to your values. Don’t let people throw you off your centre. And remember that underneath it all people are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You”".
I got it. Underneath her anger lay frustration. She was clearly frustrated that she could not watch her French TV whilst she was on her exercise bike. Watching French TV was the way she exercised. She had tried to put the French TV on and had not made it happen. So she was reaching out to me and saying “Please help me get the French TV working!”
Instantly, I was in different reality and my experience was totally different. I was calm. And the question that arose was a simply one: “Do I accept the request?”
I accept the request and help out
After consideration, I chose to come downstairs into the living room and figure out what was the matter. I did the usual stuff like pressing the power-on button, checking the connection between the French satellite decoder and the smart TV… I got the same results that my wife had gotten.
Then I went back to the source – the two power sockets in the wall that were feeding all the electronics – to see if the issue was at the source of with the French satellite decoder. By switching the power plugs from one socket to another I got the French satellite decoder working. And after some help from my wife I had the decoder working with the TV. I left the lounge and headed upstairs, back to my comfortable chair. What state was I in? Happiness was present.
What are the insights here?
It occurs to me that there are two helpful insights here. Insights which have the potential to help us transform our relationships and our experience of living.
First, as Marshall Rosenberg says people are only ever communicating “Please” or “Thank You” irrespective of how they go about communicating this. If I, get this, really get this, and show up for this perspective then I can be with whatever anyone says and how s/he says it. How? Because, I am only ever listening for the “Please” or “Thank You” that lies hidden in their communication.
Second, I am ALWAYS the source of my experience. As this experience illustrates I have choice in the matter of how I listen to others and how I interpret the circumstances. When I listened to my wife as blaming me unjustly I got angry. When I listened to my wife as making a request “Please get the French TV working for me.” I became calm and helpful.