There’s a saying that what annoys you about others maybe a reflection of you.  I was reminded of that (painfully) a few nights ago.  I’ve volunteered to serve on a committee that is planning a conference in the spring.

The first thirty minutes of the meeting were productive.   Participants were discussing the information the chair had prepared, asking clarifying questions, and listening to each other to better understand perspectives.

I’m not sure when the discussion and the energy in the room changed (I have an assumption).  I recognized the conversational shift into what I call the “rat hole vortex.”  I could feel my energy draining and irritation that began as small as a grain of sand in my shoe, grew to the size of a boulder.

My inner dialogue reared its ugly head: “Carol, what in the world were you thinking!?  You hate committee work!  You know this always happens.  One or two people decide to dominate the conversation, sucking oxygen out of the room.  This is a colossal waste of time!”

My irritation grew as one person dominated the conversation.  I physically retracted, pushing my chair back from the table, and observed others were doing the same thing, although a bit more subtly.  I checked my watch repeatedly and sat in judgmental silence.

I changed my inner dialogue: “Take a breath Carol.  It’s been a long day, you’re tired and hungry.  Drink more water, you’re probably dehydrated.  The water will help your brain function more productively.  Get back in the conversation and engage others!”

After the meeting, on the way to meet friends for dinner, I vented my frustration to my husband (poor unsuspecting soul) and found myself getting more and more agitated.  (Dear Reader, are you noticing a few Unhelpfulpatterns?)

At the restaurant we were warmly greeted with loving hugs and beautiful smiles.  I focused my attention on re-connecting and basking in the glow of a relationship that has been sustained across countries, life challenges, birth and death.

As I’ve reflected on the evening I’m reminded that:

  1. Sitting in silent assessment disengages me from the conversation.  I am no longer an active participant.
  2. Reminding myself to breath, to drink water, etc. was a good attempt to re-align my attention and counter my negative attitude.
  3. Venting is not productive!  I worked myself into a royal snit and spewed negative energy all over my husband.
  4. Being with people I love and who love me, melted all my ire and created an opportunity for me to step back and reflect.

My hackles rise when I’m around opinionated people because I’m opinionated.People who aren’t cognizant of how their behavior is affecting others irritate me because I’ve been oblivious to my impact on others.

I give myself grace for recognizing I was sitting in judgement and trying to change my internal dialogue.  And I’m reminded (again) that I’m a work in progress.

I’m human and my efforts to be open, non-judgmental, and helpful sometimes are sidetracked by my old habits. Once again I was reminded of what I don’t like about my patterns of behavior by observing them in others.

I could rail at myself that I slipped back into non-productive habits. But what I want to focus on is the power and positive impact of love. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful friends who love me amidst my messiness. I’m grateful for a husband who can tolerate my venting (especially when held hostage in a moving vehicle).

And I’m thankful for another opportunity to see myself, warts and all.I’m still learning, and with each old negative behavior that I discard, I feel lighter.

My agenda for the next committee meeting: be intentional and open to all contributions. If I find myself slipping into assessment, see if I can bring some love into the room.