The door slammed as a student stalked into my office. “Mrs. Conwell,” he said, “This project is pointless for me!” It was my second year of teaching, and I had recently introduced a new project for my Seniors. Anyone who has worked with teenagers can tell you that they hate change. Seniors, in particular, tend to expect things to stay exactly the way they have been, so the new project was frightening and upsetting for them. The project was to create a video based on a story, and the student felt it would not help him because he wasn’t planning on being a movie producer.
As I considered what to say in today’s post, I was reminded of his frustration, and of the advice that I gave him. As you probably know, this week I was supposed to be working on maintaining a healthy (ie. low) level of venting in my relationship, but, well, I just didn’t feel like venting this week, so I felt like I wasn’t getting anything from this strategy. There are certainly times when I feel like venting, but not this week. There were some rough times this week when I felt blue, but they didn’t really make me want to vent because 1) my husband is incredibly stressed and I didn’t want to add any more stress to him and 2) I just wanted to think about other things.
So, in order to get something from this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to use a technique that doesn’t appear, on the surface, to be helpful. Turns out, my advice to my student was the key.
The Key to Using (Almost) Any Advice
When I advised my student, what I told him was to look for the less obvious aspects of the project that might be useful for him personally. For example, even though he would never be a movie producer, his role required him to provide leadership for his team members, a skill that he needed to develop because he wanted to be a businessman. It also required him to communicate clearly with his team members, work within a deadline, and push through despite discouragement and fear.
I believe that the advice that I gave him applies to almost any situation where we feel like we learning nothing, including relationship strategies like we try out each week in this blog. If the surface level of a technique or a piece of relationship advice does not work for you, look for related ideas and skills that can be helpful. With a small change of perspective, you can often find something helpful in even the most off-base ideas.
What I Learned This Week
When I looked at this week’s strategy from a new perspective, I discovered that there were indeed things for me to learn this week. First off, I realized that while I was not struggling with venting, I was struggling with setting healthy boundaries with my husband, who was venting a lot because of his high level of stress. So instead of stopping my own venting, I focused on strategies for dealing with his venting. First, we had a conversation about his venting, which I started out by saying, “So my blog topic this week is how to avoid venting too much in your relationship,” to which he replied, “Well, I’ve been the one who has been venting too much recently!” We had a really good conversation about the issue, and I was reminded that I have a well-intentioned and reasonable husband, and a true partner in making our relationship the best it can be. We set some boundaries for his venting, and spit-balled a few ideas for what he could do instead of venting.
I also stumbled on a new method for dealing with venting: humor. Now, this might sound ironic, since the strategy of using humor to deal with criticism did not work for me, but somehow it works with venting. My husband and I were watching a mini-series about World War II in which one of the American soldiers went into the hut of a Japanese family and found a Japanese woman who had been fatally wounded and was dying. She put the barrel of his gun to her forehead in a mute request for him to shoot her, but instead he took her in his arms until she died. It was almost unbearably sad. Shortly after we watched it, my husband started to complain about something that happened at work, and I said, “Yes, but were you holding a dying Japanese woman? Because THAT is a really sad.” He laughed and admitted that what he was complaining about really wasn’t that bad. I’ve used that phrase a few times now, and it really seems to put things into perspective.
Now, to Finish My Story…
What happened with my student, you ask? Well, sadly, he did not listen to me. He ignored my (excellent) advice and pushed and pushed to get out of the assignment. I finally had to tell him that if he couldn’t find any other meaning, he would just have to do it for the grade. And, really, we can all do that, right? Go along with some piece of advice “just because”? I suppose that’s always an option, but I would suggest playing around with each strategy until you find something that truly fits your situation. You may be surprised by what you find!