Are you encouraging challenging responses?

Two women from the same workplace sat in my office each taking it in turns to give me lengthy diatribes of all the shortcomings of the other. They both had similar conclusions - that the other person was responsible for the problems in their working relationship.
It's an interesting quirk of human nature that we always seem to be more aware of what others are doing that is not helping than our own behaviour. But the reality is that the only person whose behaviour we can control is our own. We can influence other people to change, but whether they do or not is up to them. If we attempt to influence change by pointing the finger at the other person through criticism or blame, there is a tendency for them to do the same. It's called the Law of Reciprocity. Other people call it Karma or 'reaping what we sow'.
So how can we keep the focus on our own behaviour? One friend told me that when he is upset about his wife’s behaviour, he reminds himself, "The problem is likely to be with me". He says this is not always the case, but this thinking reminds himself to look at his own behaviour first. Often he says he can change what he is doing in some way, by being more tolerant or considerate for example.

The good news here is that if we change our half of a relationship, it is often hard for the other person to continue doing the same thing. I like asking people who are caught in a pattern of blame that if I could strike the other person with lightning and he/she then changed, would they find themselves relating better in response? People tend to readily agree that their own behaviour would be much better if only the other person changed. I then ask if it is also true that the other would behave better if they themselves changed first. They tend to get the point.
There is a balance of course. Sometimes the problem is not simply a pattern that has developed between two people. The problem may really be with one person. Even a saint has no guarantee of happiness in a relationship unless the other person is able and willing to do their half as well. For most of us, though, we need to realise that if we want a considerate, respectful relationship, we need to be that type of person ourselves. Ask yourself how your own behaviour may be encouraging challenging responses from others.

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