Don't get me wrong. Much of this can be healthy, and predictability helps us to get along. It's just those instances where you have that feeling in your gut (aka soul) that chips away at your own integrity, once more, that can be damaging over time.
My husband, John, and I have a phrase we use to bring up a topic that may seem uncomfortable. It's a signal to the other person that we're being vulnerable -- and that we're asking for a little extra consideration. (OK, I use the phrase way more than he does.) It's only three words, and it's made such a difference in our ability to communicate about anything and everything.
The phrase is "No more eggshells," symbolizing the act of walking on eggshells about something. By saying this up front, we've already eliminated any extra "charge" that may come from bringing up any topic. It paves the way for more objective communication, less defensiveness and more authenticity. And it serves as an advance signal to the other person that reassurance or forgiveness may be in order.
So, if you accidentally scrape the bumper or leave shopping bags in your trunk to carry into the house after everyone is gone, you may have a fear of bringing up said topic. Maybe you were late picking up a child from day care, forgot to book those tickets or committed to an event prematurely and need to back out of it. Have any of you ever forgotten to relay an important message -- or (gasp) accidentally sent an e-mail to the wrong person, resulting in damaging circumstances?
While these may not seem like monumental matters, they can add up and take on a life of their own. As a result, we give them way too much power as they nag at us from inside. And the anticipation is worse than the actual event. (Carly Simon was right.)
Whether it's eggshells or some other mechanism, you may also want to invite your significant other, children, parents, siblings, co-workers or friends to adopt something that helps diffuse difficult situations and head them off at the pass. My friend and editor Rosalie Earle shared that her parents used to yell out the word "jelly" when things got too heated in a conversation. That signaled a timeout and a revisiting of the topic at a later time when heads were cooler.
Consider these suggestions as your own personalized song sheet for facing the music. You'll get things off your chest much more quickly -- and be able to move on.
So, pass on the eggshells -- and please pass the jelly. It's a great recipe for peace of mind.
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.