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  • Writer's pictureRossana Snee

The Elephant in the Room

“What elephant?” you ask. The elephant in the room is that THING—that BIG issue of which everyone is acutely aware, but of which not a word is being said. It’s called the elephant in the room because everyone can feel its effects—the weight of the unspoken situation.

Whether it’s addressed or not, the elephant is there, taking up a huge chunk of space. And the worst part is, that when avoided, it becomes even larger. That which you resist, persists, as the saying goes. Maybe even to the point where the people involved can’t even fit into the same room anymore.

If there’s an elephant in your room, it’s best to get rid of it. Once you do, you’ll feel “tons” better. Avoiding the elephant stems from fear, especially if it relates to someone close to you. You might be fearful that if you address the elephant, things will worsen. The truth is that in most cases, things will improve. Remember, even though you’re not talking about it, everyone feels its presence. It’s there, and it won’t go away until it’s addressed.

How does one send this elephant back into the wild? Here are some suggestions:

1) As soon as you realize the elephant is there, address the issue; delaying it will only make it worse. In fact, the elephant has been there longer than the length of time it will take to have the actual conversation.

2) Ask the person with whom you have the issue (in private) to meet with you. Continued avoidance of the situation will not make it go away. I know of a father and son who stopped talking. There were some assumptions made that made the son think the father had done something he hadn't. So they didn't speak. At events where everyone was gathered, the elephant took a lot of space. As you can imagine, it was quite crowded and uncomfortable. Eventually, the son asked his father to discuss the elephant. And guess what? Things were resolved. Now, the elephant lives free and happy with his elephant family, not with humans who don't know how to talk to each other.

3) When you do meet with the person in question, make sure it’s in a private setting. You do not want to address a critical issue in front of a group of people. That might cause undue embarrassment. You may say, "Hey, I'd really like to discuss something in private. When would be a good time?"

4) Speak directly and honestly, from the heart. A meeting with the person doesn’t have to begin or end with a yelling match; that never solves anything. If you stay calm, things can go a lot smoother and you'll be able to accomplish a lot more. Remember to address the intention behind your words and actions. Most people don't intend to do harm and hurt others. There are deeper motivations.

5) Once the issue has been addressed, make sure it’s not brought up again. You don’t want another visit from Dumbo. Let old issues stay in the past where they belong. They have no place in the Now.

Don’t crowd your space with unnecessary visitors, especially large ones, with tusks and a trunk. If you want a pet, buy a canary, or a cat. Not necessarily both. Stop being a zookeeper!

Addressing tough issues with loved ones, especially those that have been avoided for too long, is never easy. But, in the long run, it's worth it. It's the chance to create even more intimacy in your relationship. The more you speak from your heart, the more open you are to closeness. I can almost guarantee that once everything is out in the open, you’ll feel much better. You might even wonder why you waited so long. So don’t!

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