I was helping my buddy Rob clear out his late Father's shed.
His Dad has recently passed and his Mom was angry because her children had filled his shed up with what she considered useless stuff and she wanted it all cleared out.
So she hired a large dumpster to take away the "trash."
I had known Rob and his Mom for over 30 years and she had always been kind to me.
Today she was on a "mission" and emotions were running high because her son didn’t want to throw things out without going through them first, whereas his Mom just wanted everything gone.
I was standing in between my buddy and his Mom and near a box filled with old magazines.
His Mom said to me, "Harley grab that box and throw it out!"
My buddy said, "Just leave it there buddy."
I felt caught between them and could see this was a no win situation, so as they both glared at me, I muttered, "Sorry I can't get in the middle of this …" and walked away.
After we had worked all morning me, my buddy Rob and his brother Ben had lunch at his Mothers.
His Mother is very strict about eating natural foods and is anti-sugar.
However, I like a little sugar in my coffee.
She was still angry when we arrived and as she was making my coffee she said, "I'm sick of putting sugar in Harley's coffee, I'm going to throw all my sugar out!"
I knew she was feeling upset at the recent loss of her husband and hurt that I didn’t follow her instructions, so I just let it go.
That's Not Who She Is
Afterwards I reflected on how I felt about what she said.
I was a little offended, but not that much.
"Why is that?" I asked myself.
"Because I know that's not who she is," I replied.
"You're very wise you know?" I said, complimenting myself.
"Gee, thanks!" I grinned.
(Don't laugh - I'm sure you have these conversations too!)
When I'm upset with someone, I try and remember why I became close to them in the first place - family doesn't count cos you can't choose them!
I also try and focus on the 90% that's right with them, rather than the 10% that sometimes pushes my buttons.
If I still feel hurt, angry and upset, I try and set myself a challenge to see who they really are underneath the hurt and pain.
It wasn’t hard this time because she had just lost her husband after a very stressful year of ill health.
Like a child, someone who is acting out is still getting to know who they really are - like trying on an outfit to see how it looks and feels.
When we are hurt, we might think it will look and feel good to be mean and cruel but when we really think about it, reacting that way just causes us to suffer more - and causes suffering and upset to others.
My buddy's brother Ben also said something to me many years ago that I found to be very true - actually make that two things.
Example 1. There's Always A Reason
He said, there's always a reason why people are the way they are.
If you have a baby and you treat her with love, attention and affection, she will grow up considerate, kind and compassionate.
If you have a baby and you neglect, ignore and abuse him, he will probably grow up angry and maybe violent.
Dealing with his upbringing is his responsibility, but it's not his "fault," because he's just reflecting how he was raised.
So when you encounter a selfish, grumpy, angry person, remember that it's because they have grown that way, not because they were born that way.
And if you'd like to dig a little deeper, ask them what their parents or their childhood was like.
Hurt people hurt.
People that know better, do better.
And when you catch yourself being the one acting unskillfully, remember to own your stuff and take responsibility for your part in the situation.
It may be that we are behaving that way because we find it difficult to exhibit behavior that we haven't had "modeled" to us by someone else - if we are shown love, we find it easy to show love.
If we were not shown love, we will probably find it difficult to show love - so remember to be kind to yourself
Example 2. Don't Steal My Stool
My buddys brother Ben used to work in an electronic repair shop.
The repair technicians sat on stools whilst they worked on a long bench.
I was driving past Ben's work one day so I decided to go in and say 'hi'.
He got up from his stool, greeted me warmly and we chatted for a little while.
As I was leaving I walked over with him to his work bench to find that someone had taken his stool, so he said he would have to go to the storeroom to get another.
"Why don't you just take that one over there?" I said, pointing to an empty stool.
He said, "well I don't like people taking my stool, so I'm not going to take someone else's."
I've never forgotten that because in those days I was a bit of a hot head - I probably would've stolen someone else's stool and if I'd seen someone steal mine I would have got into a big argument!
So, in summary if you're having some problems with someone, think on these things:
1. Consider Your Part In The Situation And "Own" That.
I understood I had hurt my buddys Mom by not doing what she asked me.
If we retaliate by reacting to hurt and anger with hurt and anger, we just create more hurt and anger, and a vicious circle is created.
Allow your suffering to soften you.
2. Remember The Good Things About Them.
I thought of all the nice things my buddys Mom had said and weighed them against one angry comment.
3. There's Always A Reason Why
If someone acts negatively, there is always a reason, and that reason will be how they were treated themselves.
4. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do To You
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
5. Sympathetic Resonance
If someone does something small that offends you and you experience a major over-reaction, this is about your issues, not theirs.
I hope you find this post useful in your relationships.
If you'd like to explore your relationships in greater depth, click here to get the Conflict Tool!
wishing you the best of days,
Harley M Storey
"The Life Coach Toolman!"