While we know that you can’t control or change other people, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from the stress in these relationships, and often you’ll notice that as a result of these changes, the entire relationship gets easier.
Here are three 3 specific practices that can change a relationship dynamic for the better:
1. Keep a log of “relationship instances” that stress you out. Note the context of the situation, but most importantly include:
a. what specific behavior triggered your stress reaction
b. the words of your immediate thoughts as you were reacting
c. what you believe the person was trying to accomplish through their behavior
d. what you did or said, and
e. what happened next.
Try to log at least 5 and up to 10 different interactions. Then look for patterns and see if you notice something you can change. One of the most powerful things I do with clients is review their interaction observations with them so they can see what they might not have noticed before.
It’s amazing how one small shift in your own thoughts, words or body language can dramatically reduce your stress and change the dynamic, relieving you to actually enjoy your day!
2. Ask yourself what you need from the other person that you are not getting.
What are you constantly trying to “make” them do or say? This can be anything from wanting your employees to see and fix their own mistakes, to wanting your boss to stop criticizing you, to wanting the “in” group to include you in their jokes.
Then ask yourself, “if they never change – if they aren’t able to ever give this to me, where else can I get it”?
One of my clients was complaining about a boss who completely exasperated him. He kept going into the office hoping for some intelligent guidance related to his job, and he felt consistently let down. However, when I said, “I guess you aren’t going to be getting your mentoring from him” he stopped cold. It struck him that he could get mentoring elsewhere, and he immediately begin to brainstorm on who he truly respected that he could connect with in his organization. The idea that it didn’t have to come from his boss actually empowered him.
3. Do the work of building trust.
Make it your mission to find at least five things you resonate with, respect, or like about this person, and force yourself to have a casual personal conversation with him or her on a weekly basis. It doesn’t have to be lunch if you don’t think you can stand it.
If you make a practice of asking about their life and pushing yourself to be genuinely interested, three important things happen:
a. You start seeing the person as a whole and get more insight into what they are trying to accomplish in the world and how they think about things and approach things. This helps you understand more of what is behind their behavior and take it less personally when they move into “annoying mode.”
b. They start seeing you more as a whole person, and maybe even liking you enough to change their reactions around you.
c. You get comfortable enough to actually ask them to stop doing whatever they are doing that isn’t working and suggest new ways to interact that will be better for both of you.
None of these practices are easy, especially if you are frustrated, stressed, and drained. Our natural tendency is to avoid or react to the people that get under our skin.
But when you do put the effort into looking at the dynamic, owning your part of it, making a few shifts, and getting to know the person better, it’s incredible how much easier life becomes.
If you want support in making this shift, check out Aspyrre’s group program where we not only teach the techniques but work with you hand in hand through the whole process of change. Or contact me if you’d like to schedule a time to talk more about your specific annoying person, and to get some ideas on what techniques you can try.
(Top Photo: Photo credit.)