I use my own story quite a lot to demonstrate how it really is possible and can be very valuable to grow wiser from negative personal experiences.
It is a given I think all of us around the globe experience some good and some awful stuff at the hands of our families. I’m not talking about bad neighborhoods, warfare in your back yard featuring buildings bombed to rubble, or criminal gangs roaming the streets. I’m talking about personal and quite ordinary day in and day out family life.
As you already know, I’m finishing 8 decades. My family formed the last bastion of Victorian patriarchy and chauvenism. I was seen and not heard. There was no such thing as ‘democracy’ or ‘fairness’ either at home or in school. I went to grade one in 1945.
Both my mother and grandmother were serious bitches; they never could say a kind thing to anybody., ever! These were the first voices i heard and so, somewhat later in life, some of my truly valuable friends stood on my foot to support me to get off of both their attitudes and those awful voices, which of course, were so second nature that i could not hear myself.
Afterwards, and over some years, I came upon the idea to find ways to be able to say those things that somehow can clear the air and settle difficult assumptions, that can clarify points of conflict and can simply say no when the right moment appears.
I hit upon the idea to both script myself and rehearse the script out loud until I cleared up those gruesome programs and was able to invent ways to use my voice that was more suited to my own personality by adding some kind of melody, some of the soft and the light; as well as a clarity of expression. It worked because the negative impact on people had not worked as any kind of social ploy for quite some period of time.
The lady who does not want the poncho I would make for her: Please excuse me the poncho will not work for me. Thank you for your offer.
At the last minute, i cannot make an appointment: please excuse me everything has changed today. I cannot make our appointment. Please enjoy without me. We can talk soon.
As I peruse the receipt, I noticed that the store cashier has overcharged me: Please excuse me, would you be kind enough to take a look at this receipt. I think you have overcharged me.
And when she is done and corrected the error: thank you very much!
Notice please, I do not say “sorry” even once. I am an equal person making a statement or request that is both a reasonable, gentle, and respectful. I deserve the respect I give in return.
I have known about this plan easily 45 years; and, sure, my practice has improved from the first halting statement when I was teaching myself up to this time when it is often really an automatic response. I’m happy to note that this ability to say what needs to be said without antagonizing anyone and to come away from an encounter peacefully and gracefully has stood me in good stead over these years. It is something about all those admonishments from my childhood that say something like: a soft answer turns away wrath. I can go with that!