A good friend knew our conversation would not be easy. The topic she wanted to discuss was difficult, potentially painful. She did not want to be confrontational — rather, she intended to play fair!
She said, “Time to put on you chicken wire.”
“What?” I said, not having a clue what she meant.
“Put on your chicken wire! You have a right to feel safe, protected and maintain your integrity. But you need to hear what I have to say. Most of us throw up our defenses, walling off any meaningful dialogue. Putting on your chicken wire allows you to feel safe — it will also help you take in what I have to say.”
Ironically, Jane’s approach actually made me eager to engage a tough conversation about difficult stuff. Right from the get-go I felt respected, empowered and willing to look at my culpability without reacting defensively. We both began porous rather than hardened.
The conversation that ensued was animated, emotional and true testimony to an enduring friendship. It concluded with an honest embrace and a commitment to touch base again in a couple of weeks.
Now, days later, I still walk around with my chicken wire in tact. It may just stay as part of my permanent attire. It’s a great way to engage others from a position of safety, integrity. Yesterday — with chicken wire securely in place — I negotiated the always challenging (for me, at least) weekend checkout lines a Costco. Chicken wire has become my new necessity for negotiating life’s inevitable conflicts.
First of all, Jane’s approach was strong, appropriate and inspired. The part of her approach which only became apparent in the conversation is that chicken wire required Jane to “give” what she had to say in pieces that would fit through my open spaces. It had to come in sizes I could take in. Same from my side. I had to say what I had to give in pieces that fit her capacity to receive as well.
Who knew!?! Chicken wire! Solution to innumerable human challenges. One of life’s enduring necessities.