One of the most important ingredients to healthy relationships is choice. We can choose how we want to show up in the relationship and how we want to respond to whatever confronts us or whoever is in front of us. It’s simple to choose, but not easy to follow through. It is often easier to blame and complain or worse, to let our anger or other feeling get the best of us than to choose something different.
In the leadership training program, Transformational Leadership, a “thinking model” is introduced. The underlying premise in the model is that our actions arise out of our feelings, which are determined by our thoughts, and if we change our thoughts, we will have different feelings leading to different actions. So, for example, when we are confronted in the office with someone who is in a bad mood or who snaps at us, we might normally think that they have a beef with us and then we go on to think that they have no right to be mad at us, so we respond sarcastically or with a direct counterattack as a way of reacting to the perceived offense. However, if, later in the day, we find out that this same person was up half the night at the emergency room with a sick child, we now understand the reason for what we perceived as their beef with us. So, if we turned back the clock with that knowledge and were faced with the same situation, we would think that she must be in a bad mood because she is tired, so we could respond by sympathizing with her about her child, which would keep the situation from escalating. The change in thought brings about a different feeling, resulting in a more favorable outcome (action).
Similarly, “The Relationship Handbook, the author, Dr. George S Pransky, shares success in helping couples to overcome challenges by choosing to their perception about the situation or each other. “It is the thought of incompatibility that creates the feeling of incompatibility.” “A couple looks at their differences and feels bad about their marriage. It is not the differences that make them feel bad. It is the negative feeling that accompanies the act of looking at those differences. The practice of analysis, self-doubt and faultfinding muddies your view of relationships and makes frogs out of princes.” In the 25th anniversary edition, he states “…the more you focus on shallow, unimportant issues, such as insecurities, habits, emotional reactions and irksome personality quirks, the more negative thoughts you’ll have. But the more you see the true nature of human beings, the more thoughts you’ll have about beauty and goodness.” His wife, Linda, shares “…it wasn’t George’s behavior that was bringing down our relationship; it was my own thinking about it as some critical impediment to our happiness as a couple.” For them, what changed was choosing to accept differences between them, which was in a large part, changing their thoughts about what confronted them when situations arose in their marriage.
It takes awareness in the moment (or soon afterwards) to be able to intentionally choose a different thought. As you work at it and prepare for it by deciding ahead of time to have a different thought (in those recurring situations), you will be on the path of a healthier and more fulfilling relationship, whether at work or at home. Simple to say, just not always easy to do, but powerful in the end!