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  • Writer's pictureBrian Patterson

The Best Way to Make Your Life Miseable

Taking Events and Conversations Personally- The Best Way to Make Your Life Miserable This is not written by a person at the top of the self-esteem mountain but from an inveterate climber. I have seen people melt into emotional puddles in meetings over statements that they took personally. There are also some folks who seem so thick-skinned that they don’t even know when they have wronged someone else. I’d like to share a few pointers that have helped me in this game of human communication. 1. Slow your roll and breathe. Focus on the air in and out while not talking. This will teach your brain that you have options in your behavioral response. Don’t ‘let them have it’ or ‘give them a piece of your mind’ (I’ve given too much away already!) or lead them into a ‘come to Jesus meeting’. When others spout off it’s not about you. It’s about what’s going on in them! It’s like what Mark Twain said; “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” It’s interesting in the few times I have kept my mouth shut are the times other people thought I was wise! 2. Clarify the issue. The only exercise many people get is running their mouth and jumping to conclusions. Refuse to participate in that program! Stop and ask what the real issue. One school of thought describes it as asking tentatively. Asking with a gentle tone, “What’s really the matter?” or, “What happened to upset you?” Some would say to tell them how that makes you feel. I would say that nothing ‘makes’ you feel anything. You choose your response, or at least you can choose it. When you really accept that as fact, your feelings are much more under your control and you can remain calm. Sometimes people just do not realize that they sound rude. 3. It isn’t about you! Criticism and verbal attacks are simply an inept way to get a point across and to meet the person’s internal psychological needs. Dr. William Glasser describes 5 genetic psychological needs that prompt every behavior: Love & Belonging, Power (competence), Freedom, Fun and Survival. So if a person thinks that their competence is being threatened, they will assume some behavior that, in their mind, will equalize that need again. Think of it as an individual’s behavioral homeostasis. You just happened to be the most convenient target. This doesn’t mean that the behavior shouldn’t ever be addressed but just to remember that the turmoil is inside them. 4. Talk it out. If the person who yelled at you is someone you deal with all the time you may need to find a way to talk it out with them. Ask for a time, discuss it humbly and seek to understand them. Let them know how you felt and what you thought about it. If you can’t talk to them, talk to a trusted confidante about how you can process it for yourself. This wouldn’t be productive as a complaint session but it is a way to seek resolve internally. 5. Is there a grain of truth here? My dad always told me that deep inside every criticism, there is a grain of truth from which one can learn and improve. I have often taken that to heart. Instead of practicing my witty comebacks for the next attack, I ask if there is something I can learn from this event. In this way I feel stronger and better about myself that I did not stoop to the same behavior and that I am growing! 6. Improve your own self-concept. When I do these things, I discover that the impact of the event is much shorter. I do not spend time dwelling on what happened and what I could have said or what I will say next time. And I don’t put it on Facebook! In doing these positive things I free my mind for more positive pursuits and that criticizing person isn’t controlling me. The other day, my wife and I were going to Goodwill for our retail therapy- on half-price day because we are really frugal! I was waiting to turn into a parking spot which was about to be vacated in the always crowded parking lot. I had my turn signal on as the lady backed out in front of me. In the meantime and old pick up shot into the spot from the other direction. I watched in dismay and chose to say to my wife, “That’s interesting!” We laughed because that has never been my type of quick response. There was no anger. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Practice makes perfect.

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