You know that person close to you who gets on your very last nerve? It seems that every time he or she speaks, they manage to say the very thing that upsets you.
What’s up with that? You’ve gathered your opinions along the way about why your relationship is strained. Maybe you think they’re condescending, unkind or self-centered. If only you knew the right thing to do to make them be more considerate.
That’s likely why you’re stuck — you’re focusing on how difficult this person is, or how miserable they’re “making” you. As long as you focus on the other person, you’re not getting any closer to solving the problem.
You can’t change anyone’s behavior. You can only change your thoughts and behavior in an effort to possibly alter the dynamic of the relationship.
This is particularly dicey if you can’t avoid this person. If it’s a family member or co-worker, for example, and you’d really like to lessen the tension in the relationship, it may be time for a new approach.
Psychologists and authors Katie and Gay Hendricks, of the Hendricks Institute, have developed some unique strategies that may be helpful. It starts with asking three important questions:
n Am I holding back a difficult truth?
n What am I really feeling right now?
n Am I demanding from another what I’m unwilling to give to myself?
What am I holding back?
Is the conflict happening because you want something from this person or you have a hidden agenda you’re not disclosing? You dare not say it for fear of complicating things further, hurting the other person or losing the friendship.
You’re embarrassed even imagining the other person knowing what you haven’t shared:
n His annoying habit is really getting on my nerves.
n Her criticism is stressing me out.
n I’ve maxed out the credit card.
n I’m scared I can’t handle these responsibilities.
n I feel out of control.
You may believe it’s necessary to hold back a difficult truth because it’s not a good time or you think the problem will resolve itself. How’s that working for you? According to the Hendricks Institute, when you hold back difficult truths, you’re not actually sparing the other person pain.
Most people in close relationships have a sixth sense about things being off. Chances are pretty good this person already knows you’re upset with them, they just can’t put their finger on why.
Holding back the truth may be causing both of you to feel on edge. Over time, it can lead to the very outcome you’re trying to avoid — distance, withdrawal and distrust.
What am I feeling right now?
If you’ve allowed yourself to be mired in how the other person is wrong — or wanting him or her to change — you probably haven’t given a lot of attention to how you are really feeling.
Many of us naturally avoid our feelings by blaming, judging or giving into distractions like social media, eating, drinking, etc. The Hendrick therapists advise unless you get to the core of what you’re feeling — and how to express that feeling — you’ll continue thinking the problem is someone else’s, and they’re the ones who need to change.
Am I demanding from another what I’m unwilling to give myself?
Ugh. This can be a tough reality check.
You want this other person to change in order to open the spigot to love, support and respect in your life. Unless you’re willing to give yourself that love, support and respect, though, you’ll never be able to receive it from others. And you’ll never be satisfied.
How do you know if you’re not giving yourself what you need? Here are a few clues from the Hendricks Institute:
n Is your internal dialogue full of self-criticism and judgment?
n Do you feel like others need to “get it together,” even though you secretly know you’ve not always on top of things?
n Are you burying boredom, despair or loneliness with food, media or substances?
Unless you can give yourself the respect you expect from others, no one else will be able to satisfy that desire in you and conflict will continue to be a fact of life.
If you ask yourself these three questions, you may discover the way to being in harmony is not through arguing and blaming, but by becoming more curious about the hidden source of the conflict. Often, conflict’s hidden source lurks behind something we’re not acknowledging about ourselves.
It’s an inside job
If you’d like more information along these lines, the Hendricks Institute (www.hendricks.com) has a variety of tools and techniques for consideration.
Learning to respect and value yourself will go a long way toward helping you manage conflict with others. And you’ll feel a lot less exhausted!