A reader called Coggy recently asked a few questions in response to my blog post entitled Book 19 of 52: Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton. It concerned some issues he was having with his ex partner and this blog post has been written to give him some ideas of how he can improve the situation.
Before I attended the Landmark Forum I thought a racket was something Roger Federer waved about, or a noise I made in my bedroom when I was a child.
“WHO’S MAKING THAT RACKET UP THERE?” My parents used to holler.
During my time in the Landmark Forum I learned a different meaning for the term racket.
A Racket = A fixed way of being + a persistent complaint
The coach at the Landmark Forum taught us that a racket is any unproductive way of being that includes a complaint that something shouldn’t be the way it is.
To simplify things further let me give you an example of a racket that has just happened.
Event: I have just asked my girlfriend to help me write this article
Story: She is a victim. Whatever she says next is going to be wrong because I am always right
Racket: As soon as I question any of her advice she closes up and doesn’t offer further information
The racket can be both internal and external. In this instance as soon as I ask my girlfriend to help me she runs a racket in her own mind (internal). She tells herself that as soon as she tries to give me some advice, I am going to tell her that her that her advice is wrong. Then there is the actual racket happening in real time (external). So I ask my girlfriend for advice, she offers some and I say, “no…no…no…that’s not it…try again.”
My girlfriend stops speaking to me. There is tension in the air. I now realise that my comments have caused her upset. I ask her what is the matter and she tells me that I always need to be right. What is the point of giving me advice when my reaction is negative and I ignore it? Now it’s my turn and I choose to defend myself. She is wrong and I am always right. She has taken my point out of context and I am going to tell her so. Of course when I do this I am just affirming to her that I am right, which is exactly why we argued in the first place! Can you see how absurd this is?
Another way that a racket can be fuelled is through gossip. Let’s imagine my girlfriend and I break away for the remainder of the day. I am with my friends and she is with hers. We tell our friends that we have argued and explain what happened. But the way we explain it is to seek validation that we are right. This is once again running a racket. We choose to behave in this way with our closest friends because they are more likely to agree with us. Not agreeing with us just takes up too much energy so we generally get the response we were looking for. The next time this situation emerges between us both, our rackets have been validated by our friends, which make us defend our need to be right with even more ferocity.
The truth of the matter is this. The racket has just created a divide between us both. It creates an area of conversation that cannot be approached (i.e. I cannot ask her for advice) and we have grown some resentment towards each other, which is not exactly conducive to a loving relationship.
So how do you fix this pattern?
Firstly, it is not easy. Your rackets and behavior’s have been cultivated over many years. More often that not you are going to react without thinking. So often life runs on automatic pilot. But through reflection and open and honest discussion you will certainly get better at understanding your rackets and how to control and eventually eliminate them. So in this instance it is a case of sitting down and asking my girlfriend why I upset her so much and then adjusting my behaviour accordingly. You need to be authentic and honest and get to the root cause.
All rackets are created so the individual creating them can receive a payoff. In the example I have given, my girlfriend’s payoff is that she is always wrong (the victim mentality). Rackets are also created so you can always be right/blame someone else, create self-justification/invalidate others and the classic “I win/you lose,” mentality. What I learned in the Landmark Forum is the payoff is an illusion. Instead a racket comes at a cost. Things you lose include love, affinity, self-expression, vitality, well being, satisfaction and happiness.
When I get involved in a conversation, debate or argument I find an overwhelming urge to be right. The way to reduce this habit – built up over the past thirty-seven years – is to be more mindful. The Landmark Forum certainly helped, as does meditation and yoga. Reflection helps also and I refer you to the Thinking Journal and the Check-In as excellent resources to aid you in self-reflection. One great way of avoiding the need to be right, when involved in a discussion, is to repeat the word, “I get it.” I understand it may be a little irritating and annoying, but if you select the right tone it really does take the sting out of the other persons aggression. Lastly, be honest and speak the truth. For example, when I left the Landmark Forum I told my sisters and my mother that I didn’t want them to gossip about people when I spoke to them. This honesty changes their behaviour when they are around me or at least makes it easier for me to tell them to stop when the action occurs.
Rember, in an argument, debate or conversation: If you RESIST, then the other persist will PERSIST. Just take a chill pill and calm down. Forget who is right, or wrong, and just accept what the other person is saying. It really helps if you can improve your listening skills as well, and with this in mind I strongly advocate another superb resource for aiding your listening: People Skills by Robert Bolton.
What rackets are you running and at what cost?