Every single choice has risks associated with it. Every choice in our relationships brings relationship risks and consequences. We get to choose how much risk (and how much intimacy) we desire in each of our relationships. Check out the infographic below:
The Process of Healthy Risking
(Click for larger image)
Step 1: Articulate
Articulate (name) the experience, situation or event. This step is relatively quick. Just name whatever event or experience you’re feeling worried, uncomfortable or uneasy about.
For example: I’m going to make dinner and eat with John; I need to confront my boss about the way he treats me; I need to tell Tommy why I’m angry at him; I do not want to go to Jill’s ballet classes.
Step 2: Acknowledge the Risk
Acknowledge where the risk is in the situation, experience or event. This step is super important. Think about where the risk is for you. There could be all sorts of things that feel risky to you that would not be for another person, and vice versa. Even though this can be a quick step, don’t skimp here or you’ll pay for it later in the process.
For example: If John doesn’t like my cooking, he might see me as undesirable; if I confront my boss he might ridicule me or treat me worse; if I tell Tommy why I’m angry at him, he might be upset with me or treat me differently; if I go to Jill’s ballet classes and she doesn’t appreciate how difficult it is for me to “endure” in the hot room for an hour and a half, I will feel ignored.
Step 3: Recognize Possible Outcomes
Recognize the different possibilities of what may happen. Prepare for the various possible outcomes. Becoming conscious is the key to not reacting in drama or forming resentments after-the-fact.
For example: John could love my cooking or he might dislike my cooking. My cooking might be important to him, or it might not be. When I confront my boss, he could ridicule me, ignore me, choose to treat me more disrespectfully, gossip about me, or agree and treat me with greater respect. When I tell Tommy why I’m angry, he might react by being upset, he could sever our relationship, or he might appreciate the information. If I go to the ballet class, Jill might appreciate it very much, or it may not mean anything to her. She may express appreciation, or she may not. It will probably be quite hot in that little dance studio, however it is sometimes comfortably cool.
Step 4: Accept Outcomes
Be willing to accept any and all outcomes as a result of risking with the person or situation.
For example: If John hates my cooking and sees me as less desirable, I will be sad, and I will accept his choice. If he enjoys my cooking I will be pleased, and if cooking is not important to him, I will accept that also. If my boss chooses to ridicule or gossip or be disrespectful to me, I understand that is his choice, and I will talk to his boss if he does that. If he treats me with greater respect, I will be grateful and I will be sure to express my appreciation to him. If Tommy becomes angry, I will allow him to be angry. If he decides to sever our relationship, that would be unfortunate but I will not try to control his choice. I hope Jill appreciates and thanks me for attending her ballet class. If she does not, I will choose to understand that she is a small child and she may not have any way to understand my sacrifice. However, I am willing to make the sacrifice with or without her appreciation.
Step 5: Manage Expectations
Be aware of your expectations and don’t expect that any of your expectations will be met. Unconscious, unmet expectations turn into resentments.
For example: I expect that John will enjoy the meal I prepare.I expect that my boss will begin treating me with more respect. I expect that Tommy will not become angry with me. I expect that Jill will thank me for attending her ballet class
Step 6: Take the Risk
Risk with the person or entity and let go of (surrender) outcomes. You will receive validation, support and connection from those who know how to give it. Do not go into co-dependency, control or gossip, about the person, situation, experience or event (see the “Co-Dependency” videos and workbook for more information).
For example: I ate dinner with John. He thoroughly enjoyed it. My boss threw a royal tantrum and threatened to fire me. I talked to John about the experience and he validated me. Tommy was grateful for the information, and I now see my part in our original argument. Jill barely even noticed that I was at her ballet class.
Step 7: Accept Responsibility
Accept responsibility for your choice to risk. Do not attempt to manipulate or control the outcomes.
For example: I made the choice to make dinner for John, and I’m really pleased with how our date turned out.Even though my boss reacted poorly, I am sure that confronting him was the right thing to do. I cant’ “make” him apologize or change; however I can talk to his supervisor about his unprofessional behavior.Now I see that it was my choice to be upset with Tommy. It was also my choice to talk with him about it, and I’m grateful to him for responding kindly. Even if he had responded differently, it was still my choice to talk with him, and I believe it was the right choice.Even though Jill didn’t appreciate my sacrifice and support for her, I love her and I am glad I decided to attend her class. I even got to watch her perform some incredibly cute dance steps.
Step 8: Give Another Opportunity
If your need was not met, give the person another opportunity to meet the need. Share with the person with whom you risked, what need or expectation was not met, and see if they can or are able, emotionally, physically, financially, etc. to meet it. If the need is reasonable (that is a judgment call according to you) and they can’t or won’t meet the expectation, accept their decision and don’t become angry or upset with them.
For example: Since my boss did not meet my need and expectation for respect, I will talk with him one more time. I will be calm and explain to him how he is affecting me, and ask him to change his behavior towards me. I will tell him that if he chooses to respond rudely or be disrespectful again, I will make a complaint to his supervisor.I will tell Jill that I enjoy watching her practice dancing. I will also teach her about sacrifice and about how to appropriately respond when others do kind things for you.
Step 9: Hold Boundaries
If the need is not being acknowledged or met, don’t change your boundaries around the need— stay in your truth, articulate the need again, set boundaries around what is in your best interests, and follow through with (hold/keep) your boundaries if the other person is unwilling to address your need. (See the “Boundaries” videos and workbook for more information.)
For example: My boss became rather manipulative and rude, once again. I immediately spoke with his supervisor, as I told him I would.
Step 10: Surrender
Let go (surrender) whatever did not go your way.
For example: I can’t make my boss change. I will follow up with the supervisor, and if the supervisor fails to take corrective action, I will quit my job and find another. Their behavior is not my responsibility to manage and I can’t control them.
Step 11: Move Forward
Move on/move forward, maintaining your boundaries.
For example: Since my boss/company won’t meet my need for emotional safety and respect, I will meet my own need by physically removing myself from the presence of my boss and finding a new job. I can care for myself without controlling my boss or allowing him to control me.
Care to share experiences of your own? We all benefit from hearing real-life examples. (note: comments are moderated prior to appearing).