Change starts with ourselves

Posted by Karen in change

We can’t change the other, we can only change ourselves

Learning that we can’t change others can be an ongoing and frustrating life lesson.

We can’t control others simply because we are not them.

We are all wonderfully unique with specific views of self, other and the world around us that have formed as we’ve moved through life.

Having said this, by virtue of our common humanity, we share a great number of emotions with each other. We all know what frustration, sadness, joy, contentment, happiness, hope, despair etc. feel like. And we all share universal needs such as love, connection, understanding, being heard, recognition, respect, harmony and acceptance etc.

Being a positive influence

At the level of this common humanity we can reconnect to ourselves and to others, which can help us to work through difficult situations.

For example, when we know and own our feelings and needs in a particular situation vs blaming the other for being a particular way, we connection-2have a much greater chance of staying present and connected. It may not be a comfortable conversation but at least two people can hear each other’s experience of the situation, understand each other better and find a way forward rather than backing off.

Owning our feelings, expressing them and imagining what’s going on for the other (empathy) can help us stay in charge of a situation and find a way forward. It does not change the other, but it can influence the other positively.

Communication breakdown

I am currently working with a client who finds one of his colleagues very difficult to work with. He often feels frustrated, unfairly treated, disrespected and as a result, he can end up feeling angry when he comes out of an interaction with his colleague. He feels that his colleague doesn’t communicate clearly and when my client asks his colleague what he means by something or to explain what’s going on, his colleague closes up, says no more and backs off. This in turn frustrates, upsets and annoys my client who then also backs off. The result: A breakdown in communication.

When we feel frustration or anger it usually comes from wanting something we can’t have or wanting something to be different. In this case, my client wants his colleague to be different. He even feels that his colleague shouldn’t be allowed to behave the way he does, leading him to ask in coaching session: “What can I do for him to change?”

This is an understandable and human reaction and yet one that is hugely dis-empowering and painful. Why? Because it’s an impossible task; we are not in control of changing the other, we can only change ourselves and when we do, we can influence other peoples’ thinking and behaviour. It’s the only way to take charge of a difficult situation and to feel empowered; the only way to deal with feelings of frustration and anger.copyright Calvin and Hobbes Bill Watterson

Taking ownership of your feelings

So my client might say to his colleague: “When you make a comment about something and you don’t clearly say what bothers you or what the issue is, I feel frustrated, annoyed and confused because I don’t know what you are trying to say. What I need is clarity and honesty.”

We also explored what might be going on for his colleague. Although we don’t know the other person’s map of the world, we can step into it and try to empathise at the level of our common humanity. We explored that it is possible that his colleague may be afraid of saying what bothers him out of fear of being rejected for expressing himself clearly.

When we gain some insight into what might be going on for another at a deeper level and the fact that we can relate to someone else’s fears through our common humanity can help us to stay connected with that person.

So rather than feeling angry because they are not like we want them to be, we can bring more understanding to them and the situation.

3 top tips:

1. Become aware of your own feelings and thoughts in a difficult situation. When you feel frustrated or angry, ask yourself: What am I so angry or frustrated about? What’s going on for me here? What physical sensations am I feeling?

2. Once you have clarity over what’s happening for you, express in the first person: When this or that happens, I feel… . Avoid using ‘you make me feel x, y, z’ language which can easily make the other feel as if they are being attacked, even if that is not our intention).

3. Express what you need: What I most need is/what I most long for is, e.g. clarity, honesty, time to talk, understanding, support etc.

Let me know if you have any questions. As always, I’m curious how you are getting on. Also, I offer a free 30-minute coaching taster session in Victoria park, via phone or Skype. Drop me a line or give me a call to arrange your free taster session.

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