I could easily just complain here and say, “Man I wish people would stop complaining so much.” Instead, I’ll choose to ask a question that may actually lead to the outcome I wanted anyway.
The interesting thing is, I only really got this after listening to my son complain about every… little… thing… in his 5 year old world. It seems like whenever there is something that he wants, rather than ask about it our try to understand it more, he just complains about not having it or not being able to do it.
Imagine, a beautiful 75 degree day, the wind is gently blowing, birds are singing, kids are playing… In comes my awesome son…
“Dad, I never get to go outside and play like the other kids.”
Now, instead of me granting his immediate wish and dropping everything so he can go play outside (which I want for him anyway), I feel like I need to both remind him that he does in fact play outside quite often, and defend the situation because he isn’t outside playing; even though I didn’t deny him that opportunity.
That same scenario happens for us adults but it looks a little different. Maybe for us its a promotion or acknowledgement. Maybe we deserve some credit in a relationship; personal or professional. It could even be as simple as someone jumping in front of you in line.
There are a couple things at play here that I don’t expect my 5 year old son to understand but I do want you to grab.
1. Give yourself a “Hold Up” moment
The first thing you can do to break the normal course of events is to take a quick time out. Stop for a moment and say “Hold up” to yourself. It doesn’t have to be 5 or 10 minutes; sometimes it happens in a very short time. But what it does is keeps you from reacting to your situation and gives you a chance to respond. The difference between a reaction and a response can be vast; and the results can be too.
2. Narrate and listen to the problem in your head
Take that “Hold Up” moment to tell yourself the story of what is happening and how you feel about it. I would even say go so far as to explore a possible outcome if you had reacted and not given yourself a chance to respond.
Let’s take the example of someone jumping you in line.
Hold up. I’ve been waiting for 5 minutes and this lady just walked right in front of me like I wasn’t standing here. How rude can you be… she is pissing me off.
Now. Your reaction may be to cut right back in front of her. Maybe say something directly to her. Maybe mumble something to yourself or to someone else in line.
The question is, are you acting on the assumption that she did it on purpose? Before we respond to any situation we tend to make an assumption of what exactly is happening. It is an assessment, but often we are assessing on a guess and treating the opportunity to better educate ourself on the situation with disregard.
A good way to change your approach and get to that response vs reaction is this next one.
3. Assume that no one is against you.
One of the first instincts we have when things aren’t going our way or the way we expect them to go is to assume that it must be someone else. Somebody out there is conspiring either consciously or subconsciously against me. That is incredibly normal because introspection is a difficult thing to accept. And, we are wired to find a cause for the effect.
The most common path to finding a cause for any effect is to assume that someone is responsible. And because introspection is difficult to accept, it must be someone else. Plus, rarely do we allow first for people to just make mistakes.
Try to take the conscious stance that things just are the way they are and that no one intentionally caused them to be that way. When you take that position, you enable yourself to ask questions from the position of a bystander. You remove your feelings from the situation and you can take the perspective of someone outside of it all. Then, you give yourself the opportunity to ask unassuming questions and likely get closer to the result you want.
These 3 things only work if you take the time to implement them. And it isn’t easy because sometimes emotions run high. Try them though.
To take it a step further, when you are attentive to the situation for what it is instead of what you feel in the situation, you give yourself an edge toward the offense. Simply put, you can then put yourself ahead of a bunch of the things that you are experiencing and do it in an unassuming way by removing your feelings.
Let me know if they help or if they even make sense to you.