How would you feel if you suddenly noticed that someone who knows you really well was choosing to wind you up, was deliberately referencing ‘sore points’, making digs and, at times being quite sarcastic? How frustrating, hurtful and annoying would that be, when someone who knows your trigger points is deliberately using them? That fact alone can often be the most upsetting part of incidents like that.
Yet, if we internally acknowledge what others are doing and choose not to react it can help us reclaim our power and our equilibrium! An indifferent shrug, 'whatever' or smile, rather than ‘the usual’ anger or tears, can catch them off balance and defuse a potentially escalating situation.
When we choose to react differently we get a very different response! By choosing not to be triggered and instead stay calm and in control we cause there to be a shift in power.
Of course there are sure to be times when other people’s attitudes, opinions or actions may anger or infuriate us, but that’s part of co-existing with others in the world, part of a live and let live approach to life. We may be incredulous that someone could think or feel the way they do, may wonder or even speculate that they must be joking, but being an advocate of free speech means supporting others’ rights to their points of view, even when we disagree, perhaps even vehemently.
Staying calm and untriggered, being prepared to engage in a reasoned, respectful discussion allows both sides to explore previously unconsidered viewpoints and arguments. This may result in real ‘ah ha’ moments for us, gaining insights and awarenesses that perhaps never even occurred to us before. But, there may well be other times when we decide not to engage. We may feel it’s not worth the effort or emotional investment and so choose to simply smile and leave well alone!
However, equally and less explosively, staying quiet can also be a way to give away our power. When we say nothing we silently allow other people to make assumptions and reach decisions that impact on our lives. ‘Anything for a quiet life’ gives other people permission to go ahead and make their choices as they wish.
If we later object they can validly respond by saying that we should have spoken up and said something at the time; how were they to know the way we were feeling, they’re not psychic after all! In those situations we can only hope that the people who know us really well, who purport to care about us, will make good and respectful choices with us in mind. But this is a very passive way to live, taking no responsibility and no proactive engagement about how we’re feeling, what we want or how we’d like to spend our time.
Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly said, ‘we teach people how to treat us’. As an adult it’s important that we accept responsibility for our part in successfully communicating within our relationships. Other people have their own lives and associated stresses to contend with, all things which will likely distract and preoccupy them. Our wellbeing won’t always be uppermost in their minds.
Grown-up relationships require more engaged responses than those between a parent and child. As adults, there are consequences to giving away our power. If we expect other people to take charge we can’t then complain about the outcome. We’ve effectively given them permission to behave that way; something we need to remind ourselves of when we give away our power.
Whenever we let others decide on our behalf it can, after a time, become the norm for them to find it increasingly easy to make most of the decisions, claiming they ‘know what’s best for us’ or that they want to help us improve. There may even on occasion be a backlash, times of resentment if we demur and say ‘no’, or insist on doing our own thing.
Learning to be appropriately assertive is important. Using phrases like, ‘this doesn’t work for me’, ‘leave it with me and I’ll get back to you’, ‘I can’t do that at the moment’, may well buy you a little time to walk away from any immediate pressure to decide right now. You’re then able to reflect on what you want to say and do in order to determine the most effective way to respond.
This also succeeds in reminding other people of your presence, that you too have opinions and priorities in your life. You learn to stop giving away your power; all steps towards a more positive, mutually respectful relationship.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, South Manchester Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net