Pause and Ask Yourself

We’ve all had situations where we are struggling in our relationship with a person we closely interact with, be it through work, family, or some other community.  When we do, it’s easy to point at them and identify their faults, or how their actions are making the situation worse.  I think that a more productive thing to do might be to point our finger back at ourselves and instead identify what we’re doing to negatively contribute to the situation.

Ouch!!  That Smarts!

Personally, this is not my normal course of action.  It’s a challenge to put aside what I might be feeling toward the other person and take an honest look at the role I’m playing in the scenario.  It’s much easier to keep my focus off of me and on the other person and their actions, where I self-righteously feel it should be.

I’m working to get belter in these situations.  In doing so, I’ve found that a few questions I pose to myself usually bring a new perspective to the situation.  They are:

  • What role am I playing in this scenario and how it is negatively impacting the outcome?
  • If I were an impartial 3rd party, what would I say about my actions and behavior?
  • What thoughts or beliefs am I holding that may be having a negative impact?
  • Where is the other person right, or acting with proper motives?

These questions and others like them provide a moment to pause, step back and potentially see the scenario from a whole new perspective, giving us clarity and insight we might never have gained, had we not stopped to ask them.

The next time you find yourself getting fired up at another person, pause and ask yourself one or more of these questions.   You will likely find a new perspective and potentially, a path to a positive outcome.

Before You Respond Negatively…

Have you ever received a negative or unkind email from a friend or family member?  I’m talking about from people who don’t normally send emails like that.

My wife and other members of her family received an email from one of her siblings recently, expressing their displeasure over how a current family situation is being handled.  The sibling’s email expressed blame and disappointment at family members and was not well received.

It would be so easy to let emotion take the lead, and respond negatively to this email. However, all that usually proves to do is make the situation worse.

I’ve written in a previous blog that there is a space between a stimulus (like a negative email) and our response to it.  I think this is some important to remember, especially when we may be feeling emotionally charged or fired up by a stimulus.

As I was talking to my wife about the email, I began wondering caused them to send the email.  What was the reason?  I wondered what they were dealing with that caused them to send the email.  Perhaps the family situation was causing the sibling to feel:

  • Fear
  • Regret
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame
  • Helplessness
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

Maybe I’m wrong, but I would guess that most negative emails are sent, not because the sender is a jerk, but because the sender is feeling one or more of the emotions above.  Perhaps even some additional emotions not listed.  I certainly think this is the case with my wife’s sibling. As I look at the email from this angle, it’s easy to see the sender, not as a jerk, but as a hurting human being.

The next time you receive a negative email, phone message, or any other form of communication, try to look past what’s being said and see if you can determine why it was delivered.  What is the sender dealing with?  Are there certain feelings and emotions in play?  Are they struggling, hurting, or making a poor attempt express a thought our concern?

Avoid the desire to be negative and lash out in return.  You just may save a relationship.