Earlier this week, I conversed with someone who expressed impatience with my questions. Let's call this man Sight. I was doing something as he and I talked in-person. My brain focused on both our conversation and the activity with which my body remained occupied. I asked him a few questions in a row to clarify that I accurately heard his words. As I asked my final question, his demeanor abruptly shifted.
"You're repeating yourself!" he impatiently spat.
For a moment, I felt offended at his delivery of his message and uncertain about how to proceed in the conversation.
In the past, Sight's display of impatience would have silenced me until he changed the topic. A few years ago, his method of delivery would have caused me to second-guess myself to the extent that I likely would have quit speaking and allowed him to control the conversation from that point.
This time, I shifted my gaze in a horizontal direction and took a long, slow breath.
Instead of staying silent in the face of his hostility, I patiently stated, "I'm trying to understand what you're saying."
Sight's impatience with what he interpreted as my repetition prefaced a slight restriction in my chest. My breath almost stopped. I have a sensitive connection with frustration and aggression as a control mechanism. I've learned that an important part of tense discussions is to remind myself to breathe.
To my surprise, Sight answered my question. We continued conversation about other topics. I later emailed him with my concerns and prefaced it with a version of: I realize you're an adult, and these are the concerns I have. Now you can choose your own actions and I know I've shared my concerns with you. Win win.
Well hello there.