I was standing with my client in her clothes closet yesterday afternoon. She had ten cubicles full of shoes. I said let's take a look. She said, "No, I don't need to. I went through this the other day, I got rid of the shoes I wasn't wearing."
Her voice was tense and defensive. She sounded overwhelmed by the shoes. I didn't say anything. I read in a negotiation book once that when someone says their position, you don't say anything for a brief moment. This eliminates their need to be defensive and helps them consider what you said. It was a slightly awkward moment. But not as uncomfortable as trying to verbally challenge her.
After ten seconds, she sighed and said, "You know what, I was wrong, I can see some shoes that I don't wear anymore." I held the charity bag open for her as she made the decisions for herself. "These hurt my feet." "I never wear these." "I don't know what I was thinking when I bought these." She filled a big bag.
Then my client nervously said, "I got rid of all my shoes, now what am I going to wear?" She still had about twelve pairs of shoes. I didn't say anything again. It was difficult because she sounded like she was in emotional pain. But then she sighed as she noticed the shoes she kept. She said, "I get to wear the shoes that I really love."
As I was tying up the bag of shoes, she said, "I think having all these shoes made me feel like I was in control, but that wasn't true. I was lost. I never saw that before...I really like how good it feels in here now."
I think when we feel over-protective of our space and our things, it's a red flag that there's stuff that we don't want to look at. I think when that happens, we can listen to our feelings and not do anything about it right away. The noticing helps. It leaves an opening for a solution.