You just heard a hard word.

You’ve received some bad news, or been privy to the negative expression of an onlooker or someone close to you.

You participated in an event, or facilitated a show, or ran point on a project, and when it ran its course, the end brought to you harsh critiques, less than savory feelings, and a whole heap of negativity for you to sit and stew with.

There might have been something positive in there…was that, could that be light? Nah, that was just a false sense of hope. Could I look back and see that I did that right? Of course not…why kid myself? Regardless of what I can see, what I’m hearing stands out stark and bare compared to the camouflage of inspirational things.

Here’s some food for thought: In all your preparation, subconsciously you took extra care and attention in fortifying yourself to accept all the hostile behaviors. Not brace yourself against, but accept them.

Herein lies one of our world’s most egregious trainings. We revel in negativity, though ninety percent of people will argue until the day they die, “I would never do that!” Or, “I hear it, but I will always brush it off and make the best of it.”

Are there exceptions? Always. However, it isn’t the exceptions or the defense of their existence, that is concerning. It is the willful defense of those who need to be ignorant for their lives to carry on normally that creates my concern. Here is my example.

Amongst the group of my volunteer and teaching spots, I coach high school improv comedy; an after-school group with fifteen teenagers who love to laugh. After auditioning for the team, they are required to attend a weekly workshop which helps them prepare for each of their monthly shows. Then, in the workshop following a show/performance, we spend however much time is needed to go through and discuss what worked really well and what needs to be improved from the performance.

In all the years I have facilitated and participated in this practice of review, both professionally and as a coach, I have learned and observed a glaring oversight in the personal development of both kids and adults. It is the skillset of communicating any subject, positive or negative, objectively and civilly that our society just refuses to do.

I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors and friends who have shown me the power of communication, and I feel it essential to pass this on to my kids. So, I have a personal mission to put them in “uncomfortable” and “awkward” (I put these words in quotations because I know that some people will read that sentence, see those words, and automatically assume something inappropriate. Ladies and gentlemen, should you find yourself thinking this, this is a prime example of the warping of communication that happens just one level down. I urge you not to misconstrue my words, and to attempt to hear what it is I’m offering when I teach) situations so that they know what they feel like, and then I provide the tools and positive reinforcement for them to see that any person can choose to rise above the crappy hand that they are dealt.

But there is a caveat to providing “awkward” or “uncomfortable” to someone else. I understand very well how finite a line can be carved when putting someone into a realm where they then become doubtful and hesitant in. From me to you, it isn’t enough to just be awkward, same as it isn’t enough to just be secure.

Let’s tangent for a minute and talk about a comparison example I feel formats into what I’m presenting well.

Emotions.

Many cultures and societies have trained their peoples that there are positive emotions and negative emotions. If you feel one way, you are a good person. If you feel the other way, you’re a terrible person. Ladies and gentlemen, this is another byproduct of warped communication that is false. There might be pleasant and unpleasant emotions, but emotions are not evil or good things. They are necessary things.

What jumps into the realm of evil and good are our choices that follow the emotion. How we decided to react, act, carry on or push through when we’re hit with our fluctuating selves.

I create the counter-point that it is so imperative for us to feel every different kind of emotion; to recognize their place in our hearts and minds, to explore their power and pull, to understand their personal creation and how they came to exist for us. I support this, because only by accepting their existence can we then more knowledgeably and aptly apply ourselves to the decision that inevitably comes afterward.

If we convince ourselves that feeling anger is a horrible thing, then not only are we worried about feeling it but when it comes along that fear then germinates in our minds and more dynamically influences how we deal with the anger afterward. But, if we’ve learned to accept the situation, embrace the emotion, but know how not to let it overpower us, then when faced with the consequence it turns into in a much more beneficial impact than harmful.

I hope that makes sense.

So now, going back to this teaching tool I use with my kids, I show them, by providing them a safe environment in which to face the awkward and uncomfortable, that those moments are ok. They’re like any other moment we have in life. And then I showcase to them a set of possible perspectives they can adopt or play with to solve how they would best approach this [insert personal and potentially awkward or embarrassing thing here].

(Keep in mind, though, that this approach is much different than setting up someone to fail to teach a lesson. I don’t agree with that mindset, and I consider it vastly removed from what I’m introducing here.)

Too often the people of our world are more keen to point out the horrible and atrocious aspects of life, sometimes to themselves but especially to others, and while the argument of knowing what is wrong is a strong one, by itself it’s not only weak, it’s destructive. Any type of negativity, or criticism, or awareness of the sucky and crappy things in life, constitutes only the beginning half of a most crucial puzzle.

After the awareness comes the light and the blessing and tools with which to assuage the possible hurt and pain (the whole idea of there being hurt and pain is another part of this principle that we won’t get into today). It has to happen that way. Otherwise, we will forever be trained only to see what kills us.

Every person has the power to do this now, but the hang-up catches on the thought that, “I just don’t know how to change my thinking.” This, people, is a noticeable concern.

Fear will not solve it. Blaming others for how it is for you will not solve it. Ignorance will not improve or change the situation.

Only courage and the will to open a hidden door will instigate this solution. If there is someone in your life who you can see possesses this skill, take the first step and approach them. Ask them questions. Engage them in active communication.

If you do not have someone or aren’t sure, you can begin all on your own. When something happens, or is said, instead of asking yourself, “Why?” ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” At first, those answers will be instinctual and responsive to you but go one step further. Ask questions of those answers. “Is this decision going to be positive?” “Will it provide help, benefits, etc.?” “Is it purely selfish, and centered on revenge, or hatred, or anger?” “Based on what I know right now, how can I change my thinking and improve my attitude?”

We are capable of being trained, and believe it or not, we can be retrained. This is desirable, and for those who have never felt this is doable or even known it existed, I promise it is attainable.

High school teenagers can do this. I have seen it, as have others in the program, both students and adults. Young adults can do this. I am one, and I have many friends who are this age that do this. Middle-aged people can learn to do this if they haven’t already. And anyone older who hasn’t discovered this principle yet can also learn it.

In the martial arts I teach I have instructors close to seventy who know this better than almost anyone else I’m familiar with. They are shining examples for me. And then, in this same class, I teach a gentleman who is over seventy and is slowly seeing how powerful this training can be. It is changing his life.

We do ourselves a disservice, and ironically most of us aren’t even aware. Seek out the awkward, and the uncomfortable, within reason of course, and then learn about yourself. Seek out the righteous joy and happiness, and then learn about yourself.

Don’t fear your emotions. Embrace them. Empower them. Your emotions create your humanity and define your soul. We cannot hope to grow or live well without them. Learn to acknowledge that which you fear. This is not the same as giving whatever it is power, but recognition must come first before knowledge.

There is no topic or subject on this planet that we should not be able to have a conversation about. But to do so, we have to know what it is like to personally approach the awkward. People teach and preach that hard things will help you grow, but they don’t provide the tools to see it done.

Search them out, and you will find them. I have included some here, but this is by no means comprehensive. Make it personal. Allow it to be an adventure.

Push on, and discover yourself.

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