Last week my friend was coming over to catch up and play some Tarot. When she got here, drenched from the rain, I immediately said “Come on in, take some time to dry off,” but what she really needed was a moment to sit down.
It wasn’t the rain she needed to sit for. She had just been hit by a car.
She was riding her bike on a roundabout and a car hit her. The lady came out and apologized profusely, saying she hadn’t seen her approach – even though roundabouts are designed to encourage drivers to slow down.
Thank goodness she was relatively unscathed aside from some bruising and shock, along with a bike that needed minor repairs. The lady offered to take my friend to a shop to help mend her bike, all the while expressing how terrible she felt about the incident.
So my friend – who was hit by the car – couldn’t focus on composing herself and dealing with the shock and pain of being hit. Instead she found herself consoling the person who hit her.
And as she recounted the story to me she was really angry. Why was she consoling the person who hit her!? What she really needed then was space and silence — some time to process the events.
In these moments of chaos, there are no rule books on how to act. It’s like that Seinfeld episode where you come up with the perfect retort to an argument minutes after the fact.
And just as in any startling situation in life, we often don’t have time to think about how we’ll act. Rather, we tend to react on some kind of autopilot.
And most of us are used to saying, “It’s OK, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal” (especially if we’re used to pleasing others and don’t like making a fuss about things).
But you know what? Sometimes it is a big deal. Sometimes it’s not our job to console the other person. Sometimes we just need to let the other person feel the effects of their actions.
Sometimes it’s OK to say “No, it’s not OK.”
It’s OK not to protect another from feeling bad for their mistake. This is accountability. This is ownership. This is how we learn.
If we’re all told “It’s OK, it’s no big deal” when it is a big deal — chances are we won’t change our behaviour to become more considerate, thoughtful human beings.
These types of situations arise in various forms in our lives. It could be a manager who blames us for something and once they realize it wasn’t us —they apologize. We can answer with: “It’s OK, no big deal.”
Or we can simply answer, “I accept your apology.”
Can you feel the difference? One gives away your power, telling the other person that they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions.
Saying “It’s Okay” when it’s not OK tells the other person you don’t matter and can be treated like crap.
I’m not saying you should be unnecessarily mean or snotty — truth is, you’ll feel worse if you do that too. This isn’t about getting someone back or trying to inflict pain on another.
This is about giving yourself the right and freedom to stand up for yourself and give yourself the space you need if you are hurt by the actions of another. This is also about giving the other person the gift of learning to be accountable for their actions.
It’s OK to be kind while being honest. It’s OK not to worry about the other person – let them take care of themselves as you tend to yourself. Let the other person deal with the effects of their actions. We all mess up in life, but the ability to recognize it, own it, and allow the other person to take care of themselves is a gift for everyone.
And if you catch yourself saying “It’s Ok, don’t worry” and then find yourself sinking down because deep down you know it’s actually not OK, then you have the power to relinquish that statement and start again. It’s what I like to call retractable statements. If your autopilot response is “It’s OK” but you feel horrible because it’s NOT OK… then follow up that initial automated response with “Actually, that was hurtful” (or whatever fits for the situation). Or at the very least, hopefully learn how to respond more truthfully the next time.
In the end, when something is not OK — whether it’s something at work or in your everyday life – it’s OK to be honest about it. Give yourself permission to say “No. It’s not OK.”
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