Jamie and I used to fight a lot more than we do now. Sure, Jamie is a woman, and I am a man and well, sometimes that is like water and oil, but there is something different at play here. No matter how many times you mix the water and the oil, they react the exact same way. The water does not “adapt”, the oil does not “seek to understand”. The water does not realize if he (or she) would just open up a little, they could create a something great together. That’s the thing about people, we can change how we react to people. Whether it be a romantic/spousal relationship, a professional relationship, or with your children, you get to learn from your reactions and change. We all bring “baggage” into relationships.
Los Angeles (vicinity), California. Baggage of Japanese-Americans evacuated from certain West coast areas under United States Army war emergency order, who have arrived at a reception center at a racetrack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Divorces, past business failures, and children who repeatedly make mistakes, and much more “luggage” clutter our psyche. It’s a challenge to check that baggage at the door and change. We make ourselves vulnerable to “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. But without that vulnerability, we are doomed to fail or at the very least stop growing (which I consider failure). Here is a list of 5 questions to ask yourself before you react to a situation. While the cliché reminds us that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, let’s not forget the road to heaven is paved with the same stones.
1. How do I want the other person to feel by what I am going to do or say? Is it Love, trust, happiness, fulfillment? Or am I trying to “teach her a lesson” and prove that she was wrong? Do I want her to feel bad or do I want her to feel loved?
2. Am I ok if this person doesn’t realize I fixed his/her mistake? Sometimes a person’s mistake warrants a lesson in order for him/her to grow from it. Sometimes, your wife simply left the dome light on in the car and you should quietly turn it off. Make it about the other person, and not your own ego. You don’t always need “credit”.
3. Is this something that I can learn to love, or in a business situation can I find endearing and even helpful? Being chronically late to meetings is not an endearing professional trait. Your wife, however chronically late because she is doing wardrobe for your 5 children most certainly is. Choose your reactions. Be 10 minutes late to church with a beautiful family covered in smiles, or be on time in a fit of frustration with messy hair and frowns…the choice is yours. A co-worker may be a dreamer and you may be Mr Practical. Find the symbiosis and make it work rather than fight.
4. What’s the upside to what I am going to say or do? This should be a question you constantly ask yourself. In personal relationships, it’s the key to success. Walking into a dinner party with your wife is not the time to tell her that her blouse clashes with her pants. What POSSIBLE good can come from that? Asking for feedback from a colleague (or offering) at the wrong time (such as 4:59pm on a Friday) has no real upside, unless you are trying to get out of a Saturday trip to the in-laws.
Everything and every action has some inherent risk to it, make sure your “upside” is worth that risk.
5. Am I doing this with a spirit of giving and love? I am not always positive or optimistic in my thinking. Sometimes I/we must check in to uncover our true motives. If something has a hint of negativity built in the intentions, take a break and re think your actions.
Print these questions out and try for a week. Comment to me how your interactions change for the positive.