What do you do when your partner comes to you with a complaint and asks that you attend to their issue with you?
Imagine it is eight in the morning and you are sitting on your swing in the balcony with your favourite newspaper, sipping your first cup of filter coffee, enjoying the early morning pre-monsoon breeze and just being thankful for everything around you, including that CoVid has left you alone thus far and that your favourite newspaper continues to be your favourite, reporting right through the crisis, even if it has become considerably thinner. Just then, your partner comes in, says they want to have a conversation with you and starts to complain about how you have left the coffee mug from the previous evening still there in the balcony, and that this is just not on.
How would you respond? Would you retort to your partner that they have not quite done what you needed them to either, maybe they didn’t sanitize the vegetables or put away the laundry? Would you tell them to not nag you when you are trying to have a peaceful time in the morning? Would you try and pull them to sit with you and just enjoy the morning, the chores be damned? Or, would you say quietly that you are sorry for the oversight and take steps to correct it soon?
If you said the last option, you are among a rare few. For the large majority of us, the temptation is to do the first thing - point out how they were not perfect either, and worse we might not stop there but take it a few notches higher, calling them a hypocrite and making it a fight. It is so easy to do that, snap back with the hundred and one things we know they have not been great at. The temptation to bring us all down to the same level of “Not perfect” is so high, even when we tell ourselves that we want the relationship to help us grow. We don’t quite want to take the issue that is brought up and address it for itself - we feel the urge to bring the person into it and get quite personal. We ascribe motives, look for malafide intent, seek to poke at other vulnerabilities, and retort with “As if you are doing everything I tell you to,” or other whataboutery.
We have all the opportunity and time to bring up our own grievances, and yet, it is only when someone else opens the door and shares a grievance that we feel our own grievance bubble over and we blurt it out. All parties then stay in this aggrieved position and nothing really gets done. Nobody is attended to and the relationship goes one notch lower in terms of what it can be.
How would it be if we chose to address the grievance against us instead of retorting with our own? Would that actually help things get done?
As written for The New Indian Express
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.