Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eating the Covers Off

My grandfather used to say, "Buy 'em books and buy 'em books; they eat the covers off." Meaning, of course, that you can provide people all the knowledge or tools they could possibly need, but the benefit derives from their willingness to use the knowledge and tools. Eating the cover off of a book certainly won't grant you the greatest benefit it could offer. Well, I have been eating my share of covers recently, and I am ready to stop.

I had a conversation that didn't go the way I wanted it to today. It wasn't because of anything the other person said or did; it was my own lack of purposefulness that caused my goal for the conversation to go awry. My intention had been to listen to this person's point of view fully, articulate what I saw as a more effective way to deal with a situation, and convey a boundary that I want to put in place. I missed.

Instead of expressing that I had heard this person's words, I engaged in defensive behavior that didn't serve the intention I originally had. There were probably all sorts of reasons for this, but the bottom line is that I lost my purpose in the course of the conversation. The irony of all of this is that I recently learned how to teach a set of incredible tools for effective communication, and I just threw them out the window when I let my buttons get pushed. I lost sight of what was most important to me, and I ate the covers right off of those valuable books.

The good news is that I will have another chance. I can take a stand again and recommit to that purpose, and I can acknowledge that I know how to be the way I intended to be in that conversation. I can put the tools and the knowledge that I have to use. It creates a strange buoyancy when I look in the mirror and say, "OK, let's try that differently next time."

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