Have you ever found yourself in a struggle with someone because they seem to push back every time you tried to tell them something about themselves or tell them what they needed to do? Have you ever found yourself frustrated and annoyed because that person seemed to not listen to all of your good information and advice and, in fact, seemed to do the exact opposite?
Well, part of the reason you might find yourself in a struggle and become frustrated and annoyed is that you genuinely feel that your ideas, beliefs and perspective are the “right” ones and that the other person is wrong and should just embrace all that you are attempting to give to them. Perhaps you’ve had similar experiences and have learned something from those experiences that you wish to share with her/him that might help them to avoid the mistakes you made.
For the life of you, you cannot make sense of how she/he can continue to do the same things over and over after you’ve told them many times what they ought to do. Perhaps you genuinely believe that your way is the best way. You’ve talked and talked until you were blue in the face and you wonder why your partner can’t just do it your way so that you all can live in harmony.
Imagine if someone walked up to you with a duffle bag that was filled to capacity with hundred dollar bills, but you had no way of knowing this and they began shoving it in your face, repeatedly pressing it into your chest, and trying to put the strap around your neck or up on your shoulders so that you could carry it. What might you do initially? Push or shove back? Walk or run away?
And leave that duffle bag full of money, you ask? No way! On the contrary, yes way! How so? Well, because it doesn’t matter how valuable you think what you have to offer to someone is. It could indeed be valuable and even incredibly helpful to that person, but if we try to force that valuable and helpful information on her/him because we think it is the right and best way, and they have some dignity about themselves, they have no choice but to reject it.
This rejection or push back manifests in different ways and as long as you take the stance of trying to force or demand or preach at or condemn, you will effectively stay engaged in an unproductive cycle that breeds more frustration and conflict.
What if, however, you became more interested in listening to and seeking to understand that person’s experiences, feelings, and perspective and acknowledged them as valid? Being in a hurry to give a person something she/he “ought” to do, think, feel, believe, or see can seem like an attempt to rob her/him of their own truth about their experience. It can silence and dishonor their feelings and communicate that you simply don’t get who or where they are.
If we learn to acknowledge and validate the feelings, experiences, and perspective of others, then they have less of a need to defend against you taking those away. They are freed up to be a bit more open to what’s in that “duffle bag” all by themselves, on their own terms, in their own way. They might discover that some of it is valuable to them and decide to leave some of it in the behind. And, that’s OK. They have done so with their dignity intact which can help them make positive changes in their lives.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.