“He started it!” was a common phrase my sister would use against me when being confronted by our mother as she tried to deal with our latest squabble. Such scenes, with modified language, are common amongst siblings, workmates, young lovers and wedded couples alike. On the one hand it can be helpful to determine who initiated the drama. Was there aggressive intent? Was dominance or hierarchy a factor? However, the nuance behind the moment may be lost as the emotional quotient ratchets upwards; villains must be identified, victims must be protected, justice must be done. Crisis over! Anything learned? Let’s move on.
To initiate something takes courage. What is being suggested may never have been done before; with this person, at this moment, or in this particular context. It’s exciting to try something new, to follow an impulse, to venture a wish. The response may be immediate rejection, laughter, insult and isolation. Your plan for success may have been spontaneous or carefully thought out, yet still end in failure. You may have to try again another day, with another person, in another place. You may rethink the idea, or just let it pass. You may have to find satisfaction in compromise. Far better a compromise than a regret for pushing your personal agenda on the unwilling. There is always the solo option to satiate desire.
If you have garnered some support for your initiative you might feel emboldened to carry on. There is a rush that you feel when someone agrees with your suggestion. Some may give enthusiastic endorsements and your head starts to spin with the joy of acceptance. This is the point when you check with yourself to see if the encouragement you are getting is because of your position or the validity of your idea. People who are doers are rare, and that makes them powerful. Most of us say, ‘sure’ too easily. This quickness to respond to initiators may be a wish to be seen, to be loved, to be finally given that job with the office by the window. It is often too easy to give your personal power over to one more powerful. We all want to be seen, respected and accepted. No one wants to come out of an encounter feeling used.
When I was dating my wife I looked for ways in which she might initiate a conversation, an adventure, a plan. I watched to see how my initiations were perceived and reacted to. I was looking for a common acceptance of the merits of the proposal. I was pleased when neither of us dominated the role of initiator. Each of us wanted to lead in a certain context and wanted to be lead in others. The discovery of the details of this dance, as we got to know each other, led to fascinating admissions of wants, needs and future dreams. Hearing the truth like this, did make us feel free to continue trying new ways of being together. This gave us confidence that we were seeing each other’s desires as mutually important and equally as necessary.