01 Mar A High Stakes Game
Anyone who reads my blog knows I like Brene Brown. What she says and how she says it often resonates strongly with me. Not long ago, she was promoting her book, Braving the Wilderness. I heard her in an interview talk about negotiation; not like national politics or business negotiation but on a more personal level. This is a rough paraphrase of one thing she said to the interviewer. “I will negotiate anything with you except my worth. That is not on the line.” That was several months ago but it has stuck to me like glue.
I’ve written about worthiness before in my blog but this is an angle I ask you to consider. Way more often than I wish were true, I see many, many people whose worth or at least their view of their worth is being negotiated almost all the time. Someone else’s response in an argument determines their worth. How soon they are praised again by their boss determines their worth. Whether or not they can maintain a favored position with parents determines their worth. Whether or not their kids follow the predetermined script determines their worth. The dinner party that comes off without a single hitch determines their worth. Whether or not the wife still finds them sexy determines their worth. These are all examples that I have heard in therapy and I could honestly list many more.
If you think about it you can see the problem with this as well as perhaps the ways you yourself have negotiated with your value. Can you see that this makes the stakes just too high? For example, if I have to worry about my wife’s self-esteem every time I disagree with her, it makes it really hard to be vulnerable and honest. If I have to be perfect enough to keep my parents from questioning themselves as parents, the pressure is too great to really succeed. Further, when the stakes are this high, people either avoid these situations/conversations as much as possible or become excessively reactive when they finally do tackle them. Admit it. I’m certain you can recall an exchange with someone you love in which the stakes (your worth, their worth, or both) were just too high to be functional. I certainly can.
Imagine this, though. Imagine relationships in which worthiness is not on the bargaining block. Both are confident in their inherent value, in the value of the other, and in the value of the relationship itself. When the time comes to hammer out a problem, they can do so honestly, kindly, and bravely. They live with the certainty that at the end of whatever they are about to go through, neither person’s value has been negotiated away. They may not have solved the problem or one might have had to face some difficult criticism, but that has not changed the fundamental quotient of worthiness. Just imagine it!