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Why would you stop and retrace your Path to Action in the first

place? Certainly if you’re constantly stopping what you’re doing

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and looking for your underlying motive and thoughts, you won’t

even be able to put on your shoes without thinking about it for

who knows how long. You’ll die of analysis paralysis.

Actually, you shouldn’t constantly stop and question your

actions. If you Learn to Look (as we suggested in Chapter 4) and

note that you yourself are slipping into silence or violence, you

have good reason to stop and take stock.




But looking isn’t enough. You must take an honest look at

what you’re doing. If you tell yourself a story that your violent

behavior is a “necessary tactic,” you won’t see the need to recon­

sider your actions. If you immediately jump in with “they started

it,” or otherwise find yourself rationalizing your behavior, you

also won’t feel compelled to change. Rather than stop and review

what you’re doing, you’ll devote your time to justifying your

actions to yourself and others.

When an unhelpful story is driving you to silence or violence,

stop and consider how others would see your actions. For exam­

ple, if the 60 Minutes camera crew replayed this scene on

national television, how would you look? What would they tell

about your behavior?

Not only do those who are best at crucial conversations notice

when they’re slipping into silence or violence, but they are also

able to admit it. They don’t wallow in self-doubt, of course, but

they do recognize the problem and begin to take corrective

action. The moment they realize that they’re killing dialogue,

they review their own Path to Action.

Get I n Touch with You r Fee l ings

As skilled individuals begin to retrace their own Path to Action,

they immediately move from examining their own unhealthy

behavior to exploring their feelings or emotions. At first glance

this task sounds easy. “I’m angry ! ” you think to yourself. What

could be easier?

Actually, identifying your emotions is more difficult than you

might imagine. In fact, many people are emotionally illiterate.

When asked to describe how they’re feeling, they use words such

as “bad” or “angry” or “frightened”-which would be okay if

t hese were accurate descriptors, but often they’re not.

I ndividuals say they’re angry when, in fact, they’re feeling a mix

01′ embarrassment and surprise. Or they suggest they’re unhappy




when they’re feeling violated. Perhaps they suggest they’re upset

when they’re really feeling humiliated and cheated.

Since life doesn’t consist of a series of vocabulary tests, you

might wonder what difference words can make. But words do

matter. Knowing what you’re really feeling helps you take a more

accurate look at what is going on and why. For instance, you’re

far more likely to take an honest look at the story you’re telling

yourself if you admit you’re feeling both embarrassed and sur­

prised rather than simply angry.

How about you? When experiencing strong emotions, do you

stop and think about your feelings? If so, do you use a rich

vocabulary, or do you mostly draw from terms such as “bummed

out” and “furious”? Second, do you talk openly with others

about how you feel? Do you willingly talk with loved ones about

what’s going on inside of you? Third, in so doing, is your vocab­

ulary robust and accurate?

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