When's the last time that you felt frustrated?
Yesterday? This morning? Chances are, it isn't hard to recall a recent irritating moment.
Most of the time, those moments involve other people: our children, our co-workers, our spouses. Don't you wish that you had a magic switch that would change their behavior? Of course you do, because if everyone would just see things your way, you could stay calm.
Except that's not really how it works.
We live and work with other people. There is always going to be a little friction.
The good news is, with one tiny change, you can feel that calmness even without the ability to control those around you.
The 1 Minute Solution: Examine Your Assumptions.
To preserve our sanity, we often make assumptions about the world around us. After being in a relationship with someone for several years, we don't spend much energy questioning the motivation behind his or her actions. We tell ourselves, consciously or sub-consciously, that we KNOW why that happened.
But are we really able to read the mind of our partner? And how much do our insecurities or blind spots affect what we believe?
For example, let's pretend that I asked my husband to unload the dishwasher before dinner, and he didn't do it.
[my husband would like me to clarify that this is a hypothetical situation]
I might tell myself, "Here we go...another time that I clearly asked him to do something, and he ignores me. He has no idea how stressed I am right now. Can't he see how much I'm juggling? And I ask him to do ONE SIMPLE THING, and he can't even do that..."
So what are my assumptions?
- He doesn't care.
As a neutral third party, do you actually believe these are the thoughts going through my husband's head when I ask him to empty the dishwasher?
Is he actually thinking, "Whatever. I don't have to do anything around the house. Why can't she just do it? I can't believe she has the nerve to ask me that again."
Here's my best guess regarding what would be going through his mind when I asked him:
"What???? I can't believe he missed that shot!!! I knew we should have traded him last season. Huh? Dishwasher? Sure. Argh!!!! Another missed shot! The coach needs to call a time out...."
Most of the time, we are misreading intent behind the actions of others.
The real issue in this scenario is that my husband was distracted by the game. It had nothing to do with our relationship.
How Our Assumptions Derail Us at Work.
One of the most common challenges in the workplace is having a boss or co-worker that we don't get along with. Our default response is usually: "They don't like me."
Even if that is true, it's important to examine other variables that are contributing to the friction.
Ask yourself what you think that person really wants. Do they want validation? Are they stressed about a project and desperately want it to succeed? Do they want to feel that someone is on their side? Do they want to avoid conflict at all costs?
If your goal is simply to reduce your stress level, reframing their behavior through the lens of different motivations can help. As in, "Maybe she feels like it's her against the world. Maybe this isn't about me at all."
Or, "Maybe he hates rocking the boat. Maybe he just took the path of least resistance and wasn't even thinking about what that would mean to me."
It Doesn't Always Have to be a Big Discussion.
Sometimes, it's just easier to challenge our assumptions and move on. By reminding ourselves that the other person's behavior may have had nothing to do with us, we've created breathing room for ourselves. That may be enough.
Yes, there are many times where you wish to address the situation, but I'm giving you permission to simply move on if that feels easier for you.
As always, if you need help re-framing a situation or figuring out how to navigate a tough conversation, I'd love to help you out. Check out your options to work with me here.
Want more tips for taking better care of yourself? Grab your free Secondhand Therapy eBook, Start Investing in Your Emotional Wellbeing: 25 Practical Tips for Moving Past Survival Mode.
[Originally published by Secondhand Therapy, May 9, 2016]