I was having a pretty stressful day with a student group I was advising. There were some interpersonal issues going on, and try as I may, the students were still having conflict. All the counseling methods I tried didn’t work, and the arguments between students didn’t fit any theories I learned in graduate school. It was a good old fashioned “I just don’t like you” conflict, minus the rationalization most people use on a daily basis.
In times like these, I run to a trusted person for advice. As an introvert with anxiety and depression, I don’t have very many people who truly understand how my mind works and appreciate that I seek their counsel when I’m in a jam. So, I took a casual stroll downstairs to see my direct supervisor at the time.
In my mind, part of having a good relationship with anybody means getting great advice when you desperately need it, and sometimes when you don’t realize you need it. Getting to this point takes a lot of work, some arguing, maybe a little anger. But, ultimately you get to the level where there are very few untouchable topics. Now, this hasn’t been easy. We’ve had our share of arguments and disagreements, but never to the point of getting personal. The most important thing to come out of this process is the sharing of wisdom and advice that provides comfort and provokes thought.
With the above situation, I started telling her what happened and my steps. I was going to confer with other colleagues within the Dean of Students office that could provide guidance. Most importantly, I was going to meet with the students individually to make sure their concerns were being heard. As soon as I was done talking, she simply said breathe. Just a quick reminder to focus and remember that everything was going to be alright. I was doing my job to the best of my ability, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t control the issues students come to campus with.
This advice was reminiscent of my time at the Social Justice Training Institute one summer, where I was triggered at a comment and I just kept talking about my feelings. One of the facilitators was in my talking circle, just looked at me and calmly said shut up. That was it! He pulled me aside and told me shut up wasn’t his way of exerting power; it was a gesture to allow a frustrated person to have a moment of clarity. A simple statement made me take a deep breath, calm my mind, and focus on the larger issues at hand. It also allowed me to listen to others in the group and learn from their perspectives. Sometimes the invaluable things we need to hear are so simple.
Breathe. It sounds so easy to do. To somebody else, it sounds dismissive, without care or concern about the situation. But, given who I was talking to and the value that simple word had on me, it was incredibly powerful. Lest we all be hopeful to have such wisdom grace us when we need it.