Seek first to understand. – Steven Covey
My boss Mike was in a snit the other day. The new biller he hired was not working out and we therapists were not getting our payments from the insurance companies. The staff was alarmed and came to him in attack mode. “Why didn’t you research her more?” How could you have hired a person like this?” “I have to pay my bills!”
I trusted that things would work out. After all, this was affecting Mike too, even more than the therapists in fact; not only was he not getting paid but he had to deal with a bunch of angry people.
Mike came into the conference room where I was sitting. He seemed grumpy and out of sorts. He expressed annoyance with me when I took a phone call. My first impulse (from my animal brain ) was to react strongly to his rudeness –to tell him that I was angry about the new biller too and maybe he should have researched more and how dare he talk to me this way!!! But luckily, I caught myself and took a slow deep breath instead. I looked into his face and I saw how scared and vulnerable he was. “Mike”, I said, “It is not your fault. Obviously, you heard good things about Elaine and trusted the people who referred her. Your intent was pure. You thought she would do a good job for us. And she still might I see how hard you are trying to make it right and I appreciate it.”
Mike’s face softened. “Thank you for saying that. I needed someone to be on my side. And, I am sorry I was short with you. This has been horrible.”
It hit me that anytime you interact with another human being who is overreacting you have the choice to understand and acknowledge the pain beneath their words or take what they say personally. The truth is that it is seldom about you. Most of the time, others’ actions and behaviors are about their own personal pain.
In that moment with Mike, I had a choice to react or respond. If I allowed myself to take it as a personal assault, I would have lashed out at him. But when I identified with his pain, I was able to respond. And when I responded with love I surprised him. It changed everything. Love just works that way.
Remember when you are triggered:
1. Take a deep breath.
2. Identify with the other person’s pain.
3. See if you can see the scared child inside of the other.
4. Show them with your words that you care and understand.
Brenda Strausz is a holistic psychotherapist with a practice in the Southfield, MI. She combines conventional and alternative therapy to help people live more lightly. She can be contacted at www.BrendaStrausz.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or you can connect with her on facebook at Open to Joy.