Recently a client described an awkward conversation with a family member like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. He was never quite sure where his target was or what he could say to make his point. This image has stuck with me.
Pin the Tail on the Donkey is a game from childhood, requiring the player to wear a blindfold, get spun around a few times then try to find the picture of the donkey and affix a tail in the correct location.
It's a game of chance and competition. You win, I lose.
It's a game that makes me feel a little jackassy, wandering around dizzy, holding a donkey tail. It's a game where everyone is watching the player fumble around and laughing. And for perfectionists, fumbling in front of others and wandering around without the tools to succeed is our worst nightmare.
Imagine this person's discomfort in his relationship. He feels like everyone else knows where and how he's supposed to go, while he's only able to guess at where that is. He's feeling a ton of judgement about how he's doing. No wonder he feels unsure.
Have you ever felt like this?
Here's the exercise--take a relationship that's troubling you and find a game it resembles. Is it the old card game War? Monopoly? Boggle?
Then ask yourself why you picked that game. What are the rules you're uncomfortable with? How do you feel as you're playing?
Next, what game would feel better? How could you invite the feeling of playfulness while losing the "me vs. the world" mentality, the rules you don't like and all the perceived judgment from others? Is there a cooperative game that fits?
What if you chose a board game like Cranium or an athletic game like soccer, where you're both on the same team and have different skills? How would visualizing this type of game change how you approached a conversation with a family member?
Spend some time with this and let me know what you come up with.