Last night my dear friend Melanie, who used to be an upscale caterer, came over to cook a delicious several course meal for my husband and me. She enjoys our big kitchen, we enjoy her cooking and all of us enjoy each other's company. I haven't cooked in years but for camaraderie sake, I offered to sous chef. I didn't think after a long day's work I'd enjoy being in a hot kitchen, but I did. I've been in hot kitchens before and all I felt was stress, rushing, indecision, angst, fear. There can be a lot of emotions in a kitchen, huh.
Melanie has had experience and she knew what she was doing. She was fast and facile, but here was my favorite part, she told me EXACTLY what to do, with no hesitation (in my own kitchen!) Can you guess the overwhelming feeling I felt as a result? If you guessed "safe," you're right. I felt safe and cared for by someone telling me exactly what to do. Is that how you would feel? Test your assumption. Her telling me exactly what to do, left no room for my mind to second guess, project, argue, doubt, fear or grow anxious (and you know I like to do these things). She focused me on a task and even if I had some resistance to it, she really made me feel it was the RIGHT choice and that I would feel good about completing it, and I did. This principle doesn't just apply to cooking or friendship, though.
When my husband tells me what to do in bed, I relax; well, after I get over a moment of internal rebellion. I know to listen to him, because he is confident about what should happen next, rather than to the brat in my own head. Since my husband has earned my trust, it's actually very relaxing to follow his lead. This might sound contrary to my independent character, but my husband is helping me feel safe in the context of the physical expression of our love. I can always "vote" once I've begun what I'm told to do, if I think it's a no go or there's a better way, but then I won't be voting from the sidelines, where the brat and chicken like to hang out, I'll be voting while "on the court."
And lest you think this is only applicable in the kitchen or bedroom, nope. It applies at the office, too.
Yesterday, I was on a work conference call, and I was rattling off a list of things that needed to get handled, and my Client Services assistant said "Slow down, Laurie, I can't keep up with you." She told me multiple times to slow down so I understood exactly what pace she needed so we could make this a successful meeting. You would have thought a boss might feel annoyed, upset or frustrated by that, but I didn't. Again, I felt safe. She was telling me what she needed to get her job done well. She wasn't fearing or manipulating me, or lying to me about what she could handle. She was teaching me how to have proper expectations and how to help her win at her task. She told me what to do (slow down) and it made me feel safe.
Please consider both sides of this principle:
Giving: Where is it your responsibility to tell someone what to do and you are chickening out? Where have you fallen into the trap of thinking: "if they loved me they'd know?" E.S.P. is not reasonable to expect from most people. Who are you willing to make a clear request of, today?
Receiving: From whom should you be TAKING clear direction? Has someone been trying to tell you what to do and meeting bratty or fearful resistance? Try just going along with the instruction today and see how you feel. You might be surprised to find you feel safe. Let's see.
Please share about your experiences of giving and receiving direction by commenting on my blog.