Recently, I was walking with our dog, Pearl. She is well trained when we walk, trotting along easily. There is one thing that we’re still working on: turning around and going where I want to go when she wants to go a different way.
We had visited my fiance’s parents where she always gets a treat. She LOVES treats. She had been running around their yard and wanted to go back inside for more treats. I had a timeline to meet and appointments on the schedule for the day, so I needed to get back home. As we were walking home, she’d turn around every few feet and head back to their house.
Usually, I think it’s kind of cute. That day, though, because of hurry, I felt frustration building in me because she kept turning around. I kept pulling her in the direction I wanted to go and she kept turning around to go back.
After a few minutes, I heard my thoughts and caught myself! What was I thinking, and what was I creating!?!?
I stopped and shifted my thoughts. I started repeating L-O-V-E, spelling the word over and over silently in my mind. It took only a short time, and she was trotting alongside of me like she usually does. We were easily and quickly headed home!
As Pearl was trotting happily alongside of me headed home, I realized that what had just happened is the same thing that happens in many human relationships.
Several years ago, one of my clients (pretend his name is Jake) was pretty frustrated with himself and his business partner (call him Steve). Jake and Steve were busy all the time working with their clients on long-term projects. However, when the projects ended, they had trouble getting the billing done because it took so long to gather all the expense and time data to prepare the invoice. Instead, it was easier to go work on the next client’s project instead. As you can imagine, the billing piled up and money was still in their clients’ banks instead of theirs! Jake was frustrated enough that he pulled himself together and managed to get caught up on billing for his projects and stay on top of it. However, despite much urging (and nagging), Steve’s billing was still sitting in a stack. Jake was getting more and more frustrated with Steve and nagging him even more, and, still, Steve’s billing was stacking up.
Jake agreed to do an experiment. I asked him to stop thinking about Steve and Steve’s “problem”. Instead, I asked Jake to pick something in himself that he wanted to improve. Then, whenever he caught himself thinking about Steve’s billing, Jake was supposed to think about ways he could improve himself.
Miracle! Within 2 weeks, Steve had started working on his billing and getting caught up. Without a single additional word from Jake!
How could that happen!?
Imagine that you’re watching 2 wrestlers. Wrestler A goes after Wrestler B and pushes on him to force him back or down. Well, Wrestler B is going to do everything he can to stay standing. He instinctively knows that in order to stay upright, he needs to really dig in his heels and hold his position with as much strength as he can muster. So, he hunkers in his position.
In this case, Jake is Wrestler A and Steve is Wrestler B. Steve feels Jake pushing against him, that is, nagging and complaining, and his only choice is to hold his position firmly to be able to keep his balance. Do you want to be pushed over? No, and neither does Steve. So, Steve has to hold his position, i.e. avoiding the billing, even more intensely in the face of Jake’s pressure. This makes Jake push even harder and Steve resist even harder. Does this sound like a winning recipe?!
What happened when Jake stopped pushing and instead focused on himself? He withdrew the pressure from Steve. Then, Steve could do what he knew was the right thing and relax his position. He could shift and change comfortably because he was free of pressure. That’s when Steve started to do his own billing. Voilà: billing on schedule, relationship improved.
Even though Jake was only using words to nag Steve, there is an energy associated with that. By focusing on improving himself, Jake actually withdrew his pushing energy which had been directed at Steve. Even though Steve may be oblivious to relationship energy dynamics, he still felt the difference and acted accordingly. The wrestlers described above could be wrestling with energy, think ancient martial arts, and the results would be exactly the same. It’s the energy of our thoughts and our words that impacts our relationships.
The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated with someone, remember to pull your energy back to yourself before you interact with him. You might be surprised what happens when you discipline yourself to keep your “negative” thoughts and words, i.e. your energy, to yourself. And, the bonus is that you get to work on improving something about yourself when you follow the example of Jake above.
Did this article remind you of someone that does things differently than you want them to, perhaps a colleague or even a family member? Then, use these simple steps to test the theory for yourself.
- Think of something about yourself that you’d like to improve.
- Create an affirmation or think of an action step that you could take to make that improvement.
- The next time you are tempted to criticize/nag/remind someone to do things your way, STOP!
- Instead of letting yourself focus on them, bring your focus back to yourself.
- Take the action step or work with the affirmation from Step #2.
- Keep track of how long it takes before there is a change in the situation. You might be pleasantly surprised!
- Remember to be gentle with yourself–it may take some time for you to remember to STOP! and refocus. Give yourself permission to do better the next time!
The L-O-V-E strategy comes from the work of Mary Robinson Reynolds. Check out her ebook “Attitude Alignment”*.