My clients often tell me about people in their lives who are challenging and thus cause them to be walking on eggshells. My question to my clients is always, “Whose eggshells are they?” What I am trying to ask my clients is, “Who is responsible for the feelings and reactions of others?”
If we are responsible for not cracking the eggshells of someone else, we have taken on a situation that we actually can’t control. Some people are sensitive, defensive or even explosive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show up as our authentic selves with them. There’s no doubt that it helps for us to show up with kindness and diplomacy, but how people react to that is up to them. Who are we really benefiting if we are spending all of our time trying not to push someone else’s buttons?
What if we approached people with kindness, authenticity, and a true desire to connect, and how they respond to that is up to them? How exhausting, and ultimately unhelpful, is it to try not to crack someone else’s eggshells? We are each responsible for our own eggs and their shells! What if we actually believed and realized that we don’t have to react to the reactions of others?
Building Relationships with Authenticity
Maybe all of our relationships would be a little less volatile and a little less fragile. Communication and relationships can be very challenging, but none more so than the ones in which we feel responsible for the feelings of the other. Think about the people and situations in which you are walking on eggshells. Ask yourself how you can start communicating more authentically with those people. Also, ask yourself how comfortable you will be if they react anyway and maybe choose to leave the relationship.
Not walking on eggshells can feel risky, but it can also lead to authentic and honest relationships in which both people show up with good intentions and as their true selves. Walking on eggshells means we are putting on a mask to please the other person. Think of how dangerous that is for the long run. Either we will get sick of the mask or they will and then the relationship is in jeopardy. Being authentic from the start allows us each to decide if we want to be in a relationship with the other person and confident that we won’t need to walk on eggshells to stay there.
Editor’s note: This article struck me because we all have people in our lives who cause us to walk on eggshells. Right? Maybe it’s the mom in your neighborhood who you are always on edge with because you never know what you’re going to get with her. Maybe it’s your spouse because the two of you are in a really bad place. Whoever it is who is causing you to walk on eggshells, stop and ask yourself, “Isn’t it better if I just act like my authentic self and not give a crap what the person thinks or how he or she reacts?” It’s actually kind of liberating when you do that because you feel better about yourself and now, if the person reacts badly, it’s over. It’s done. Lisa is so right that we have no control over how others act or what they say, but we have 100% control of how we act and what we say. So, try saying, “I’m going to be me and whatever happens, I know I’m being authentic and just have the best intentions.” I always say to myself, “It’s HER problem.” In other words, take yourself completely out of the situation and put it on the eggshell person. You’ll feel so much better about yourself because you’ll have more respect for yourself that you’re not timid and nervous because of someone else. You’re honest and forthright and just being you. That’s the best thing you can do! Let the other person pick up the yoke. (I couldn’t resist.) – Jackie Pilossoph
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com . This article was originally published on Lisa’s blog.