One of my clients complained that her boyfriend had an annoying habit of constantly chewing gum. It drove her crazy! “Aside from that, he’s perfect.” she exclaimed. “But how do I get him to stop? He knows it bugs me yet he continues to do it. He says he’s not doing anything wrong and then accuses me of nagging! Can you believe it? If I was doing something that bothered him, I’d stop because I love him. Why won’t he do that for me?”
Oh goodness, I thought. She is not going to like what I have to say! But I had to be honest. That’s my job. When someone else’s behavior is problematic for us, we must first and foremost look within ourselves and ask the very tough question, “What is it about me that causes this behavior to be bothersome?” The behavior itself is not the problem. It is the way in which a person perceives and interprets it that causes the difficulty. In reality, problems only exist in the mind so in order for this to no longer present a challenge, my client needs to look within for the solution. Once she resolves her internal issues, his behavior will cease to upset her.
Secondly, I reminded her that we have no right to ask or expect another person to change for us. With the exception of behavior that is illegal, immoral, or puts us at risk, people have a right to be who they are and to engage in activities that suit them. We must learn to either accept and appreciate who they are or politely exit the relationship, giving them the opportunity to be with someone more accommodating.
Finally, I addressed her rationale that if he loved her he would change. This is a desperate attempt to shame him into conceding to her demands and to manipulate him in the hopes of getting what she is seeking. Her actions are self-serving, arrogant, unloving, and selfish. Authentic love supports and encourages the other party to freely express who they are, to live in a way that is comfortable for them, to feel safe enough within the relationship to be authentic without fear of criticism, ridicule, comparisons, or the need to change. Clearly, she does not fully grasp the concept of unconditional love.
Anger, annoyance, and disappointment result from unmet expectations. We all demand (whether explicitly or covertly) that others be a particular way, look a certain way or act in a precise manner that conforms to what we believe to be right or acceptable. When those expectations are not met, we become angry and inflict pressure on the other party to conform. Their resistance is often interpreted as defiant, uncooperative, rude, selfish, disrespectful or unloving when in fact it is more likely an attempt to maintain their personal integrity and authenticity. Learning to love means removing those demands that are petty and insignificant and choosing instead to be at peace with their uniqueness. The fewer demands we place on others the less anger we’ll experience and the more freedom we’ll have to truly enjoy their company.
To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit http://www.pfeifferpowerseminars.com/pps1-products.html