It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated by our partner’s behaviour or that of a colleague or friend. Many of us believe that we understand why the other person behaves the way they do and know what they have to do to change. But as the saying goes, we can only change ourselves so it might be time to focus on what you can do to change their behaviour.
Perhaps your partner is a poor communicator and you wish that he or she would tell you why they are looking so unhappy or at least whether they will be home for dinner or not. But what if your reactions are making it harder for your partner to open up? What if they are worried that if they tell you the truth, it will start an argument that they would rather avoid? In other words, what can you do to make it easier for your partner to be a better communicator?
Maybe a colleague is driving you crazy because they are disorganised and approach everything in a chaotic way. It might be obvious to you that they should slow down, think through things carefully and work as part of a team. But what if your attitude towards them is very negative? What if they feel like you’re a giant handbrake, which is making them want to push harder or be unrealistically positive? When we zoom out and look at the dynamic within our relationships, it can be empowering. We can feel less helpless if we work out what we can do to improve that dynamic. Instead of complaining that your workmate is all over the place, why not allow some of their enthusiasm to rub off on you and resist the urge to point out the problems straight away. Try to praise their efforts and then suggest what you could do to address the gaping holes that you can see.
You might have a friend who seems to always want things to go their way. You see the movie they want to see or go to the restaurant they way to try. Over time, the resentment builds up and you start to feel the power imbalance. Instead of waiting until the resentment destroys the friendship, consider what role you’re playing in this dynamic. Maybe you hesitate to make suggestions yourself. Perhaps you are a little passive-aggressive and wait to be asked for your opinion or give subtle hints that go unnoticed. Your friend may be oblivious to the fact that you have a clear idea about what you want to eat or what movie you want to see. Even if you do speak up and your friend still tries to overrule you, be assertive and insist that next time it’s your choice. Once you change the dance steps, the other person can’t help but follow.