A huge cause of suffering on the planet is wanting another person to change.
There is an epidemic of wanting other people to change, but unlike a dose of flu, this ‘disease’ is often undiagnosed. Imagine you are walking down the street one day and you run into an old friend, Jane. She starts to tell you that she is working two jobs and not getting help at home from her partner and she is feeling exhausted and annoyed as a result. “If only he would get his act together, I just want some help, it’s so unfair!” Jane has been in this situation for years. You have watched Jane reacting to this scenario for a long time and although you feel empathy for her situation, you recognise that she is stuck. We don’t generally regard Jane as being part of the problem do we? It appears she is living with some-one with selfish behaviours, but she is creating her own suffering by continuing to behave in an un-empowered manner. Jane has caught a dose of Wanting.
It is a rare individual that doesn’t want another person in their lives to change. Jane is not alone. ‘Why won’t he show me he loves me? I wish he was more responsible with money. Why won’t he help me around the house / cook meals. It’s not fair that I have to shoulder the load. How could he be so selfish?‘ On and on it goes. So what’s the antidote…….. because it’s not fixing the other person?
The only person that we can change is ourselves. Be the change you want to see.
Each time you are wanting some-one else to be different you have an opportunity. You get to decide how you wish to behave in relation to that situation. Lets imagine for a moment that like Jane in the above scenario, you are wanting your partner to help you with housework. You are feeling tired and there is a sense that you are carrying more of the load than is fair for a shared house situation. The first step is to raise the topic in a neutral manner and this can be paramount as to whether a discussion takes place or an argument. An argument can only happen if two people partake. Ever tried to argue with some-one who refuses to join in. It’s futile. If you decide to come to a discussion with the objective of being genuinely interested in what is going on in the other person’s world, it will start to transform your communication. What if you came to the situation with the following question;
How can I assist this person to grow?
That is so different to ‘you aren’t doing what I want!’
There is a big difference between attempting to change some-one via force, versus offering some-one observations about a behaviour that may be selfish and could be changed to a more loving and communal way of being. (By force I mean a raft of different manipulations; arguing, guilting, sulking, withdrawing, yelling, playing the victim, name calling, ignoring, etc.) In order to bring an issue to another we have to drop our own selfish behaviour and find compassion for their human-ness and be prepared to really listen to what is going on for them. This takes courage as it is not our normal mode of communication and can feel a bit like stepping out onto a precipice the first time.
So how do we offer some-one a chance to grow? Have a look at the scenario below.
“Hey Jack, can we talk about house work now?” (You have checked in that now is a good time and prefaced the topic.)
Outline how you feel. “I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at work at the moment and when I come home and see all our dishes in the sink, I feel like I just don’t have the energy to face it.” (You are not accusing Jack of anything; just allowing him to know what is going on for you)
How are you travelling with your energy levels?” (Maybe Jack is at tired as you are? The answer will assist in determining where the conversation goes next)
Listen, listen, listen…………. (This is a real skill. Often when we are wanting a particular outcome we are getting ready to enforce / defend our position and we are not in a space to really LISTEN to what Jack is about to tell us.
Let Jack know that you have heard him. (“Oh, so you are feeling really tired too at the moment. I didn’t know that. What’s happening for you?) This is important also. Let Jack know that he is more important than the house work. There may be a bigger hidden issue here. Listen…….
“OK Jack so we are both tired. How do you feel about sharing household responsibilities? Can we work out a way of getting the dishes /general cleaning done that means we are sharing the load? Can we try something new?” (Come back to the issue at hand considering what you have just learnt. There may be a much broader context to consider now with Jack’s input.)
Be open to negotiate an outcome / compromise – it may not be your PERFECT outcome. It will be much more challenging communication if you WANT a specific outcome and are inflexible in how this plays out. Find common agreement. (“OK, I will do dishes Mondays, you Tuesdays and we do them together for the rest of the week. Sounds great.)
Agree to try some changes and to come back soon and see how they are working for both parties. (Again, try to be flexible.)
Levity. Humour. Can we remember to laugh? Funny humans that we are. Lighten up. How important is this conversation? When you die, will you look back and decide that the dishes building up on the sink were a pivotal life event?
Be patient. It can take time to alter behaviours. Gently remind rather than admonish. “Hey Jack, it’s Tuesday night, remember that you agreed to do the dishes because it’s my yoga night.”
Gratitude. “Hey Jack,….I really appreciate your listening/talking to me and working out this new system with the dishes. Thank you. It actually means heaps that you listened.”
Assess if you are being fair in your requests and this takes a mature and insightful approach. What do I need to learn here? If your request is ignored and your wellness is being compromised, then you may need to set appropriate boundaries.
Compromising – both parties being willing to be flexible with an outcome. Giving up part of how you want an event to be resolved. Not being fixed and immovable.
Collaborating – Both parties are keen to find a resolution that caters for both people. This is a heart centred approach. Feeling for the other person’s world.
Forcing – ‘Wanting to get’ from the situation. Have it my way. Manipulating to GET what I want.