One thing I’m slowly learning is how to stop holding people accountable for things you haven’t articulated. It’s the emotional equivalent of waiting for an answer to a question that you mumbled. It seems basic but it’s actually really easy to avoid ever doing. There is so much incentive for abuse.
It’s insidious. On the one hand, there is some vulnerability in having to explain honestly how something makes you feel. On the other, saying anything means they might stop and then you can’t hold it against them anymore. Comparing the two options for someone like me, it not even a question. Think about how often people turn down the chance to feel better than someone else. In my experience, it doesn’t happen very often.
So I’ve tried to use the Mirror Trick on a regular basis. It’s meant for married couples but the application is far reaching:
Before you approach your partner with a grievance, take a mental peek into the mirror. What aspect of yourself, what issues or ‘stuff,’ either past or present, are you bringing to the discussion about this problem? For example, if you don’t like the amount of time your partner spends with friends, ask yourself “what does his/her spending time away from me mean to me specifically?” It could be an issue of feeling inferior to them or unwanted, something that cuts beyond the core of “a man/woman needs to be home with his/her spouse.” If you can ‘look in the mirror first’ you can then approach your partner with the grievance in the form of your personal idiosyncrasy with the issue as opposed to simply pointing the finger. This will often decrease defensiveness and lead to a more productive outcome. Consider: “When you spend such a large amount of time with your friends, it taps into my fears that you don’t want to be with me. I feel inferior to them.” Compare this with: “I hate it when you’re with your friends so much. You need to be home more.”
When I run through the list of my grievances they almost all are rooted at some level in this problem. I’m holding someone to account for something they never knew they signed up for. Changing that variable is an instant release of tension. I’m no longer carrying the resentment and suddenly, they aren’t the “violator” anymore. And for the other cases where you can’t do anything about it? It’s still ok, I think, to hold people to your own internal standards. You just don’t get the right to bemad about it.
Btw, an obvious example of this is some of the commenters on the site. Watch what happens if I cross some arbitrary, personal line that they carry around and don’t tell anyone about.
HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT?
Is this in relation to your assistant? I remember you mentioning that you are sometimes bad at explaining instructions to him/her. If so, it’s good that you’re recognising your own ability to alter the problem, rather than assuming your assistant is dumb, like so many other people would do. It’s incredibly frustrating working for someone who gives very unclear instructions. Being in an inferior position hinders your ability to raise the issue with them – given that it may end your employment if you insult them.
This is the ol, mind reading issue in psychology based around attachment and needs.
People can’t read your mind to find what specifically you need them to do to have your needs met, what triggers you, or what makes you happy.
The funny thing is a lot of times people don’t know themselves. So you have to choose between doing a lot of guess work and driving yourself crazy trying to figure them out, or hold them responsible for meeting their own needs and assuming things are cool otherwise.
So give it up, or communicate.
The new National Geographic had a couple short bits I hadn’t seen about animals that aree already old on the web:
Moral Eels have two sets of jaws:
Sled Dogs have a secret 2nd metabolism:
Nice post. It reminds me of many challenges I had when I moved to Japan. Here there is a huge contrast between what is said and what is meant. The language is far more contextual than English, and that often means what is left unsaid is far more important than what is said.
ps, yes your posters do seem to have that streak. The most vociferous comments on my blog were the guys who found it through yours.
sounds a lot like “The work”