Have you ever gotten yourself into a position where you are simply at the end of a conversation or conflict and the exchange just isn’t going anywhere? Maybe all sides have made their points with relative clarity and logic, But you simply haven’t been able to come to some sort of a workable agreement about a division of labor in the household or the allocation of time and other resources. We often try to convince people of the validity of our position rather than collaborate with them in order to gain their cooperation. We just keep digging that hole deeper and deeper until it’s a literal pit!
When you find yourself pounding on a point and applying more and more pressure in order to get your way, it’s time to take a step back (or three!) and reset the scene. At the end of the day, living well with others in the classroom, the rooms at home or the Zoom meeting is as much about grace and strategy as it is about logic and justice. As any parent, partner or person knows, it’s entirely possible to be right and still be wrong! What often happens when we want something very badly from the people in our lives that they are unwilling to give is that we try to insist on our way by means of force- force of control, force of discussion, force of will, force of shame, force of withdrawal… These are often the weapons of our warfare with kids and other key people in our lives.
So you’ve got to ask yourself- what else can you do? The first rule of succeeding in managing your roles well is to divide the tools needed for the job into two basic categories: self-management and shared management. Self-management is necessarily predicated on a robust self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love. Failure to do the personal work needed to fully develop in any of these areas leads to intrapersonal as well as interpersonal breakdowns in connection. For example, self-awareness that includes an acknowledgement of past trauma, its impacts and resolution is a necessary foundation piece to carrying the weight of the self and its accumulated experiences into the many decades of a (hopefully fully functional!) adulthood. Self-acceptance includes working with one’s foibles, faults and failures without excessive shame, blame or condemnation. Honesty in the face of these challenges goes a long way towards improving a felt sense of competence to manage well through all of the seconds and seasons of life. Self-love that’s functional and optimal follows onto the practices of self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-regulation.
Okay, you know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself and self-regulate well enough to effectively self-manage. Now what about that shared management stuff? Here is where the hard work of getting to know yourself, differentiate yourself from others and love yourself pays off! Instead of relying on the dysfunctional tools of discussion (arguing), distancing (withdrawing connection), force of will (insisting and persisting in perpetuating the discussion loudly and at length) or force of might (physically compelling your child or partner with either “hands-on” direction or corporal punishment), the relative peace of your inner world will enable you to remake and remap the outer world, too.
The way that each of us feels about the world that we share with others is made in the image of the world that we are experiencing internally. So- to remake the outer world into a better one, there first has to be a remake of the internal world. Once we are somewhat more fluent in the “pause, is there a better way to do this?” line of thinking, we get into the real work of collaborating at a level that allows us to create a lasting impression that’s positive. NOW we’re positioned to leave a legacy that matters!
Implementing any tool is a matter of chain reaction that moves from intention to execution to habit to pattern. That’s true irrespective of whether the behaviors and beliefs that we are embodying are set into motion through conscious choice or via a default decision. So- when I’m tired and margins are slim with respect to time, money and bandwidth, THAT’S when the many headed Hydra of Dysfunction can pop up! It’s in those moments that my actions best reveal whether positive patterns have taken hold in ways that matter. That’s especially true when I’m deliberately stretching some of my routines around productivity and other pursuits. Validating my intentions to embody a consciously guided, mindful execution of my values with behaviors that are aligned is what elevates a felt sense of competence and confidence. But- there’s often a couple of breakdowns that accompany efforts towards breakthrough. Those have to be accounted for and any needed adjustments and apologies made.
Self-awareness includes being mindful of past breakdowns and their accompanying triggers. Not so that they can be avoided, but so that they can be managed. Late afternoon at my house is a space that’s often filled with grouchiness and anxiety from my special needs relative. Dinner prep conflicts with her desire for one more outing. She crowds me when I’m cooking in order to move me towards her goal and I lecture her while I cook in order to gain my goal of some space. Can you say “dysfunction junction”?
So- I’ve simplified the routine. I’ve injected humor. I step away from conflict. It’s much better. Occasionally, though, I lapse into a lecture. It’s the exception. But it’s still a breakdown on my side. It still has to be accounted for. I do that by connecting with her. I value her as a person more than the minutes lost to dinner prep. That’s flipping the script. Not giving in, but not giving up. “Lean in!” as Sheryl Sandberg so famously wrote.
Asking more of others (like asking my relative to wait while I cook) is always more easily accomplished if our own rigorous honesty, integrated self-management and other intrapersonal tools are online. The quality of our connection to others is really predicated on the quality of our connection with ourselves. So- we manage inside out. The world around us comes into line largely to the extent that we bring ourselves into line and engage with practices that perpetuate and support that dynamic. It’s also easier to take risks that pay off in the form of additional opportunities to succeed in the classroom, home and business whenever felt competence is at optimal levels. And risk is necessary to growth! Which is why it’s time to take care of yourself, take stock of your context and take a chance that you can surmount some of the behaviors, beliefs and habits that are holding you back.
If you could use some support in your engagement with personal work or with your efforts to flip the script in places where you are stuck, call us! We’re here to help!