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Walking on Eggshells

Wiktionary suggests the following idiomatic explanations of the expression walking on eggshells: 1. “To be overly careful in dealing with a person or situation because they get angry or offended very easily; to try very hard not to upset someone or something.” and 2. “To be careful and sensitive, in handling very sensitive matters.”

When applied to interpersonal conflict I think of those disconcerting situations – consistent with the explanations above – when I am reluctant to raise an issue expecting that by doing so I will overly upset the other person. It seems this is most likely to occur when I have a history with and am aware of her or his sensibilities. Though I expect it also happens when we don’t know the other person but reckon that what we have to say will be difficult to receive. In any case, the image itself – from whatever the source –conjures up an extremely uncomfortable experience.

When I think about this – as I am writing this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog – I realize that I would not like someone to feel this way about me. What also occurs to me is that we give a lot of power to people when we walk on eggshells around them and maybe they don’t own it.

If you tend to walk on eggshells around certain people, or are aware that others do about you, these questions will hopefully resonate.

  • If you are walking on eggshells around another person, why are you doing so?
  • How do you describe what it feels like to walk on eggshells in this situation?
  • What is the worst case scenario you imagine could happen regarding the other person’s reaction?
  • How realistic is that scenario on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being very realistic? If you rated less than 5 what does that rating mean?
  • What do you want to feel you are walking on – rather than eggshells – in this scenario?
  • What power are you giving the other person by walking on eggshells?
  • If you are aware of someone walking on eggshells around you, what is the situation?
  • What are you gaining by her or him doing so? What are you losing?
  • What power is the other person giving you? What do you like about having that power? What do you not like?
  • What do you prefer other people walk on when it comes to raising issues of concern to you? How might you interact to facilitate that?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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4 Responses to Walking on Eggshells

  1. Judy Ringer says:

    I always read your posts, Cinnie, because your questions cause me to reflect on the nature of my own conflict and on conflict in general. Of course, I’d rather feel I’m walking on solid ground. Interestingly, when I approach a difficult conversation as if that’s true, it often is. Sometimes the eggshells are of my own making. Good ki! -Judy

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Judy

    I’m with you…sometimes I realize the egg shells I am walking on are ones i made!

    Thank you as always.
    Cinne

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