Archive for the ‘honesty’ Tag

RULE #7. CONSIDER, “IF NOT ‘YOU’ THEN ‘I’?”   15 comments

When, as in my last post, I advise people to avoid using “you” because it is so blaming, I encourage the use of “I” because it is honest. But just like the pitfalls related to “you,” there are hazards in using “I.”

Consider when I say, “You make me feel so angry.” It’s good to recognize a variant on the thought attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you angry without your cooperation.” It’s more honest to say, “I feel angry when you say/do things like that.”

It’s that basic issue of control again. “I” am the one responding with anger. “I” can decide how to handle my anger. “You” can control what you do. “You” can decide to refrain from such behavior in the future in order to avoid contributing to my angry feeling. Or you can choose to decide that I’m being ridiculous. Or you can realize that what you said/did was appropriate, and maybe there’s some conversation needed between the two of us. Or whatever. The point is, “I” am responsible to myself and “you” are responsible for “you.”

Whenever “I” hold you responsible for my reactions, “I” am not only being dishonest; “I” am ceding my power and control to you.

As a general rule, I prefer the “I” word.

But, of course, there are other things to consider. “I” can be a very selfish word when it attempts to turn the focus of attention on “me” and away from “you.” Consider a few examples. There’s the sympathetic listener whose first response is, “Oh, I know just how you feel.” — No, you don’t!

Or maybe there’s the “sympathetic” response that goes like this. “Let me tell you about my accident/operation/breakup/whatever.” No, I want you to listen to me! I’m hurting and I need someone to hear about me. When you start your “I” comments, you are not showing support for me.

Another example of the undesirable use of “I:” We’ve all experienced it, I’ll bet, like when we have – or overhear – a conversation between two people on a date and one person is doing most of the talking, with lots of “I”s.

So yes, “I” puts the focus on the speaker, with all the aspects of honesty and control mentioned at the beginning. Or “I” puts the focus on the speaker with little concern for the “you” of the other person.

For all these reasons, I developed the practice when teaching a class never to ask “Do you understand?” (potentially blaming) But rather to inquire, “Have I made myself clear?” (acknowledging my responsibility as teacher/lecturer.)

Whew! “I’m” finding it hard to make my point clear. Only “you” know whether I have.

 

SHARDS OF MONEY-SAVING THERAPY WISDOM   6 comments

I’ve been promising to present some “rules” of therapy – no charge. So here’s the first one. No doubt some can be applied in a broader sphere, like maybe government, war, and politics. But discussion here is limited to our personal/interpersonal lives. I call them shards, because I’m really just offering pieces that suggest something larger and more complete. And besides, they have sharp edges that require careful handling.

Rule #1: The only person you can control is you.

This is basic. It starts at the very beginning – the need to make life predictable – to get it under control. I could easily get lost here in a long review of Developmental and Social Psychology but I don’t feel like doing that. I’ll acknowledge that how we go about controlling is strongly influenced by the way we are raised. Here, though, I just want to point some ways we get it right, and some ways we stray. I’m hoping many of you will make comments about the how and the why based on your own experience and understanding.

Let’s consider a couple who seek therapy. You can place bets that it will start out with each one trying to change the other, mostly by telling the partner how he or she should be. No surprise, it doesn’t work.

Oh, maybe you can influence the way the other person acts. Browbeating, bribing, passive aggressive words and actions, financial control, violence – other forms of bullying or abuse. In that sense, I guess I’d have to admit that the other person can be controlled. Look a little deeper at the couple, however, and it’s clear those things aren’t getting what the controller really wants; confidence in the partners faithfulness or love or admiration or respect, or …

And the chances are good the restrained one would find a way to strike back, Or maybe become something less than what the controller was expecting.

What does often work is to change one’s own behavior to evoke a different reaction from the other. Basically, this is the object of mediation. Funny thing, though, that starts with changing oneself. Back to the rule. The only person you can control is yourself.

That kind of change requires honest listening. But it won’t work if the person you’ve been listening to is not honest. And here’s a really important point. You can’t be honest, or get honesty from your partner, if one or both of you is not being honest with yourself. Which brings us to another point.

Self Control

Yes, the goal is self-control. But not the way it’s often meant. Too many of us are raised to think that self-control means hiding or squelching our own feelings. That won’t work without either taking a toll on our bodies, or eventually coming out in uncontrolled anger, or tears, or depression, or something else I’ve missed.

The fact is, we can’t get enough control of ourselves to change if we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves. To accept our own “Shadow.” But that’s rule #2, saved for the next posting.

The situation with couples makes for an easy example, but the rule applies everywhere. I hope you’ll use the “comments” section to add some examples based on your own experience.

But before we leave our unhappy but growing couple, here’s a question. Could it be that more arguments would help? The kind where each one is honest about feelings and opinions and listening to the other? (Even if they’d rather not admit it at the time.) And knowing that somehow they’ll have to do something about what they’re hearing if they really want things to change.

************************************

See page 35 of “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses.” A conversation between Dara and her mother.

“Your father respects me – and us.

 “I do not believe it. I hear him when he is arguing with you.

 “Oh, but Dara, that is the point. We do argue. I know some mothers and fathers who do not argue, but I will tell you right now, the wives do not argue because they do not dare. … Your father and I argue because he holds me in high regard. Otherwise he would never listen to what I say, and I would never dare say it.”

*************************************

VICTORY! I DID WHAT I’VE WANTED TO DO!   1 comment

Yes, it’s been a good day. First thing this morning I sent off my latest editing of Mrs Job’s chapter Seven. That was itself a victory after I carved out two almost-full days to finalize it. Now I’ll wait for the editor at TM Publications to get back to me with the next challenge. The process really is fun.

Then I actually finished reading a book, Dan Ariely’s “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.” I loved it — wrote a review on amazon.com. I’ll provide a link to the review. But first let me say that toward the end he turned me on to a new forgiveness angle. It’s too late for another chapter in “When to Forgive” When to Forgive, but after I’ve mulled it I may have something to write here on my blog.

Here’s the link to Ariely’s book Review Ariely's book on honesty

%d bloggers like this: