A very, very short guide to interacting with monsters.

Well, fairly short.

I will, of course, never reach my goal of writing a post so short that Seth Godin could have written it.

And anyway, if Seth had written this post it would be completely brilliant and not full of parenthetical asides and also (probably) not about monsters.

But it would be short. And ideally this will be one of the shorter guides to interacting with monsters.

Point 1: It’s not a big deal that they exist. Tell them that.

You’re not the only one with a monster.

Just about everyone I know has a monster too. Pffffffft! At least. Some of us have lots of them.

Some monsters are fear-based. Some are anger-based. Some are invisible or they hide when you look for them. Some chase you and never let you see them.

Tell your monster:

“Okay. Even though you’re here, I’m not impressed. You’re just my monster. Even though I’m terrified of you, it’s not the end of the world that you exist, alright?”

Point 2: Your monster always needs something from you.

And it’s never that hard to give.

Usually you don’t want to give it because you don’t want to even think about your monster, never mind interact with it.

And sometimes you don’t want to give it because you feel resentful. He’s making your life miserable. He’s scaring your socks off. Why should you give him anything?

Well. You give him (or her — you should ask) something because that thing will be reassuring for your monster. And giving it will be reassuring for you.

And your monster will be able to stop scaring you.

Point 3: Don’t give your monster cookies unless you know he likes them.

A student of mine had a very uncomfortable experience a few weeks ago. It made her go Eeeeeeeeeeek!

Which is exactly what monsters thrive on. It makes them feel like they are doing their job and it is not very fun for you.

Her monster was enormous and terrifying and ruining her life. Not exaggerating.

And she gave it milk and cookies and some toys … and he got so mad that he gnashed his teeth and made a huge mess and tore up her space.

Crumbs. Everywhere. It was violent and scary.

Because some of her other monsters go away and play when distracted with cookies, she thought she knew just what to do.

It doesn’t work like that.

Surprising, I know. But that’s how it is. Not all monsters like cookies.

Point 4: There are ways to find out what your monster needs.

Really, the best way is to ask.

Generally you will not like doing this and I don’t blame you, because it involves talking to the thing you are trying to avoid.

So here’s what you do. You write a note. And you leave it somewhere the monster will find it.

In a closet. In a drawer. On the back of a door or something.

And here’s what you say:

“Hello, monster. I think you are my monster. I do not know what you need but Havi and her duck Selma said you needed something.

I would appreciate it if you would — in a NON-SCARY WAY, please — let me know what that thing might be. Because maybe I can give it to you. We’ll see.”

Point 5: Don’t forget to tell your monster what you need.

A lot of times your monster jumps out and frightens you because he (or she) is under the mistaken impression that this will motivate you to do your best work.

It’s kind of screwed up, but it makes sense in monster-logic.

So you’ll want to let it know that this is not working for you. You can do this in a note, too, so that you won’t have to actually encounter it.

When you say what you need, be very clear, but also use words it will understand.

Do not say: “I need you to leave me the hell alone!” Because that won’t work.

Do not say: “I need you to stop scaring me!” Because that won’t work.

But you could say: “I need to feel supported. I can’t do the thing you’re trying to help me do when I don’t feel supported.”

You could say: “I need you to occasionally sit down for a bit and listen to music and maybe sip a pink fruity-drink with an umbrella in it while I get some things done please. Would you at least consider that?”

Point 6: If you don’t know what to do with your monster, just wait.

You can say, “I don’t know what to do, monster. So I’m waiting for you to help me out here.”

Also: There are lots of things you can do while you’re waiting.

You can leave your monster a little offering. Not cookies. Unless you know it likes them. Just, you know, a little something so it knows you’re willing to negotiate.

You can draw your monster a picture!

You could even draw a portrait of your monster so you know what it looks like. Sometimes they like that. Sometimes they don’t care, but it makes you feel better.

One more thing.

Monsters, like everybody else, appreciate apologies. If you’ve been saying mean things to it or giving it cookies when it didn’t want cookies, try saying sorry. Don’t force yourself or anything. If it’s not the time, it’s not the time.

Just something to think about.

Well, that was the shortest guide to interacting with monsters that I’ve ever written.

It is incomplete. It is also too long.

Here’s the Twitter version:

Not all monsters like cookies. Ask first. Your monster will calm down when it gets what it needs. Communication is good.

PS: Here’s a picture of a monster.

The Fluent Self