It was late, it was dark and I was tired. And after an eight-hour drive, we were almost home.
My daughter Maddy and I had been visiting my sister in Connecticut, and we were just returning the rental car before getting a lift home.
Fortunately, the gas station right across from the car rental place was still open, and I was stopped at a red light in the wrong lane to make a right-hand turn. But it was late and there was almost no one on the roads – except for the small car that pulled up beside me that I didn’t see.
And so when the light changed and I signalled and started to make the turn, the woman in the small car beside me leaned on the horn for all she was worth. Maddy yelled, “Mom!” and I hit the brakes and held my breath. No, no accident. We were all fine. Close, but no cigar. Exhale.
Shaken, I pulled into the gas station. Embarrassingly, the other woman was headed there too, so there was no way to avoid the righteous rage she unleashed on me as soon as I pulled up to the pump and got out of the car.
I can’t quote everything she said, but she called into question my mental capacity, my vision, the validity of my driver’s license and whether or not I should be allowed behind the wheel of a car ever again.
I faced her squarely and waited for her to finish. I listened to understand, not to respond, and when she’d said her piece, I said, “You’re right. It was my fault, and I’m so sorry. I’m just grateful that I didn’t hit you.”
She sat in her car, window rolled down, looking at me in disbelief. And I turned around and headed for the pump.
She too got gas, and when she was done, she came over and apologized for yelling at me.
I told her she had nothing to apologize for, that it had been my fault, and we were able to smile at each other and go our separate ways.
Fast forward to today and my trip to buy canning jars. Oh, no. Wait. No one has jars right now. But I had a 12-quart pot of tomato sauce on the stove that had to be canned today.
I return from a frustrating trip to several stores, and my husband smiled at me brightly and said, “Look what I found. You had some all along.”
Sure enough, 36 small-mouth pint jars. Crisis averted. I could can after all.
But was I grateful? Of course not. He’s the one who’d told me I was out of jars. And so I blamed him for all my wasted time and stormed into the kitchen.
He appeared a short time later and asked that I not take my frustration out on him, which did not improve my disposition at all.
And then, as I calmed and reason returned, I remembered the two most powerful words – “You’re right.”
I’d remembered their power all those years ago, but I’d forgotten it today.
And so I sought him out and said, “You’re right. I had no business taking that out on you. I’m sorry.” No explaining, justifying or defending. Just, “You’re right.” And then, like magic, all was right with the world again.
Now go look for opportunities to use these words with or around your son or daughter, and let the healing begin.
Want to know more about Choice Theory? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you PDFs of the booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and the handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries. And as always, I welcome your questions.
- by Sue Kranz, October 2020 APSGO ENEWS