What do you do when you do not like someone’s answer? Or the answer seems unclear? Remembering these five truths may help:
1) I cannot control how or whether someone responds. Sometimes, not liking an “answer” leads to conflict. Whether spouses, co-workers, teammates, or community members, people get to give whatever response they wish (or none at all). I cannot make someone answer a question. Likewise, I cannot make someone give my preferred answer. I may choose to request a time frame for receiving an answer. I may say what no answer will lead me to do.
Examples: “If I don’t hear from you in 24 hours, I’ll offer the tickets to someone else.” “If you arrive late for dinner without letting me know, the family will eat without you.”
2) An answer meets a need. A person’s response meets a need. Avoiding conversations meets a need for “peace” or “ease,” although it often only lasts temporarily. Being curious about what need someone may be trying to meet goes a long way in bridging any misunderstandings. The naming needs list helps clarify underlying needs. Knowing the need opens dialogue and helps create ideas about how to meet the need and resolve the conflict.
3) I am responsible for meeting my needs. People have a responsibility for meeting their own needs (unless a child or otherwise incapacitated). I also have a duty to meet my own needs. This means being clear about where my responsibilities begin and end and knowing my own boundaries and limits. I may have a responsibility to other people when I am driving to follow the stop signs and speed limits. I do not have a responsibility to clean someone’s car windows or fill their gas tank. When people are clear about who meets which needs or responsibilities, it prevents misunderstandings and conflict.
4) No one can make me feel or do anything. People often say, “S/he made me….” No one makes me feel a certain way and no one makes me follow the rules or misbehave. I make decisions each day about when to get out of bed or whether to exercise or eat healthy. I also choose how to conduct my home and work, and generally how I show up as in the world. Each and every feeling I feel, each word I say, or action I take is my own. I choose them all.
5) I always choose how I show up. Choosing in advance who I will be helps me show up as the person I want to be.
Consciously choosing thoughts, feelings, and actions means the difference between positive healthy life experiences and negative, unhealthy life experiences. This means deciding who I am going to be no matter how someone else behaves. Understanding my own needs also helps clarify where and with whom I will choose to spend my time. When facing aggression, I may say, “I feel uncomfortable with the swearing and yelling.” This shows care and clarifies boundaries. If someone did not do the work they agreed to do, I may feel disappointment. However, blaming or shaming the person helps no one. I simply clarify what I am willing to do, and how it might impact how we collaborate in the future. I may always choose to show up with curiosity, compassion and clarity. My choice to do so need not be impacted by anyone’s “answer” or behavior.
Are you willing to allow whatever answer you receive? Who will you be in each moment regardless of how those around you behave?