I had a client call me yesterday, let’s call him Bob. Bob was very upset at his wife because she had come home from a week of travel, with Bob managing the house, their children and his job, and decided to “sit around watching Netflix”. Bob was tired, too, he explained to me. He did not feel it was right that he was still doing all of the work while she rested. I asked Bob if he had spoken to his wife about this. He said he had. “What did that look like, Bob?”, I asked him. “Well,” he explained, “I asked her to help me to finish getting the house cleaned up, and that there was not a lot to do. To which she replied that she was tired and wanted to rest. So I asked her why she thought it was right that I did work while she watched TV.” I paused for a moment, then asked Bob, “What was her response?” Bob got angry again and shared with me his wife’s response (I won’t share it here, but it was not the results he was hoping for).
I waited for Bob to calm down and asked him a series of questions. “Bob, “ I asked, “what did you think when your wife was watching TV and not helping you clean up?” “I thought it was unfair,” replied Bob. “OK, “ I said. “And what did you feel after you thought it was unfair?” “I started to get frustrated,” replied Bob. He continued, “I get where you are going… that Thoughts – Feelings – Actions – Results thing, aren’t you?” I sat quiet on the phone for about a minute, and then asked him, “If I am – what would be next?” “Well, I certainly did not get the results I wanted,” Bob exclaimed. “What results did you want, Bob?”, I asked. “I wanted the house cleaned up,” said Bob.
I asked Bob what he could have done differently. He shared with me that he could have had a different thought. I asked him for an example. Bob replied, “I could have thought something like, ‘I want the house clean, and would like my wife to help. But she is clearly tired from a long week of travel, and needs some rest. I can get this done pretty quickly and then we can relax together.’ .” I sat there quietly and then asked, “What sorts of feelings would that have produced?” “I would have been excited about having time to relax with my wife,” said Bob. “Would you have been happy, then,” I asked Bob. “Yes, I suppose so, “said Bob. “And what else, “ I probed. “Well, I would not have resorted to a ‘It’s not fair’ question.” We both chuckled a bit. “And what else,” I asked. “Well, I would likely have a clean house, be relaxing with my wife, and not talking with you,” he joked.
Bob is very typical of a lot of people, not just men in relationships, but women, single people managing stress at work, etc. People lose focus on what results they want, and instead focus on the thoughts and feelings in the moment, which leads to actions that produce results contrary to the results we want. The next time you find yourself getting frustrated in a situation, take a breath, and ask yourself, “What do I really want here? What am I thinking about the current situation? How can I think about it differently?” It does take practice. And, like with most things, the more you practice it, the easier it gets. But, you do have to practice it. If I can help you learn how to control your attitude and effort, or help you realize you have the power to choose your thoughts, feelings, and actions, please let me know.
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