The Courage to Complete
Many years ago, a dear friend made a commitment to be complete with every conversation every day for a month. It was a rigorous experiment that I admired. She found that practice left her profoundly connected to everyone in her life. During the month of December, we at Seven Stones devote ourselves to being complete. We say good-bye to clients who have completed their work. We review our plans and aspirations for the year and take account of our promises and commitments. Most importantly, we examine all of our relationships and see where we are blocked, withholding or there is any noise. This time of year can provide a great opportunity to pause and have the conversations that we haven’t had the courage to begin. We may not choose to complete every conversation this month however maybe choosing bravery in one relationship may be the best holiday gift of the season.
In our book the 7 Laws of Enough: Cultivating a Life of Sustainable Abundance we describe completion this way:
Completing is not the same as ending. We end many things with which we are not complete. To be complete means to have left nothing unsaid; nothing unattended to or cared for; nothing festering so it can take even one ounce of your attention. It’s a high bar to set and it’s a clear way of honoring ourselves, our colleagues, our friends and families, and our organizations.
Many of us think of completion as finishing, ending, or stopping something. However, completing is something distinct from that. Completion is more like a process of emptying and taking stock of what’s happened (or not).
When we complete something, we clear away any stuckness and move on without carrying anything forward unnecessarily or unwittingly. In completing, we give ourselves—and others— the opportunity to reflect and say anything that needs to be said. We take actions that may cause us to feel at ease with what has happened (or not) in our conversations, relationships, practices, intentions, etc.
Completion is part of letting go and offers us freedom. With this newfound freedom, new opportunities arise… From this place of completion and acceptance, we make room for something new.
If you are ready to clear away the stuckness in any relationship we offer you a practice; Getting Complete: A Practice at Year End
This format comes directly from Radical Therapy and Transactional Analysis work initiated in the 1970s and carried forward most prominently by Marshall Rosenberg and now called Nonviolent Communication. We encourage you to visit the Nonviolent Communication website for the rich resources that are available.
There are several elements to completing. We need to be willing to:
- Speak the truth as we see it.
- Listen to the other with the intention to understand; not to blame, judge, or prove we are right.
- Be responsible for our part in the matter. Or said another way, it takes two to tango.
- Let go of what we are holding onto. Not so easy, but nonetheless critical for completing anything.
Specifically, we can follow a conversation “map” when we are afraid to say something that feels difficult. We follow a pattern of expressing what we observe, feel, think, and request. This allows us to share openly and be responsible for our own feelings and thoughts, while at the same time attempting to find out what is occurring for the other person.
We recommend trying this out first by practicing with someone you feel comfortable with and about something that is not too charged. Then it can flow more easily during a more challenging moment.
In general, we speak these statements in this order, but it is not necessary to be exact.
- When you . . . (facts we observed).
- I feel . . . (feelings only). This part can become a major pitfall in the pattern. Often, we will say, “I feel like you. . . . ” When we say that, or something like it, we are framing a thought inside of the disguise of a feeling statement. Instead of expressing a vulnerability of feeling—which includes sad, mad, hurt, anxious, afraid, etc.—we are making an assessment of the other person, typically causing defensive reactions and beginning a new cycle of communication breakdown. For this reason, the distinction of feeling matters a lot when we wish to under- stand deeply how communication has run amok.
- My interpretation/thoughts/read/paranoia/story is . . . because I saw/observed you . . . (thoughts). It is here we express our assessments, true or not, and then include our observation and state the evidence if we haven’t yet.
- The grain of truth in what you said is . . . (acknowledgment). This may require some stretching on the part of the listener. At first pass, you may say nothing about what they think
is true, but in this model, we stand behind the idea that no matter how triggered and distorted things can get between parties, there is some grain of truth that can be acknowledged by the other party that will have the upset person feel acknowledged and understood; like what they are feeling and thinking makes sense even if it’s being colored by leftover material from the past littering the landscape of this current conversation.
May you find the courage to be truly complete in this moment. And in the words of John O’Donohue may:
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
Photo Credit: Alan C. Price