We Need our PERSPECTIVE VALIDATED, before we’re willing to Change It. It is frustrating to have a conversation with someone whose viewpoint is drastically different from yours. Our tendency is to expend a lot of physical and emotional energy, trying to convince them that their perspective is wrong and ours is right. This natural approach only motivates the other person to dig their heels in on their position even more, since they perceive we are attacking them. If you want another person to see your side of an issue, you need to be willing to view theirs first. Use phrases like “I can see why you feel that way,” or “You make an interesting point.” Since basic physics states that each action requires an equal and opposite reaction, people won’t lower their shields unless you lower yours first (Proverbs 2:2).
Do BAD HABITS BETTER. Bad Habits are like ruts in a road; once you get into one, you have to expend a great deal of energy to get out. This is because our brain never forgets Any Learned Behaviors, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. This works for us, like not having to relearn to ride a bike every time you get on one, but it also works against us when a habit is destructive or unhealthy. Since breaking bad habits is almost impossible, we should focus our energy on improving them. For example, if you tend to overeat, work on slowly adding more healthy foods to your diet so at least you are overeating better. If you have a habit of sleeping in too late every day, give yourself permission to sleep as long as you want just on the weekends. If you tend to overspend, try to buy more practical items that you will actually use. Stop wasting energy trying to do the impossible, and seek Progress over Perfection (Ephesians 4:22-24).
You DON’T have to Ride their EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER with them. Too often we take on the emotions of the people around us. If the checker at Safeway is irritated, we suddenly start getting frustrated. If our spouse is feeling down and sad, we find ourselves getting pulled down into their despair. While it’s natural to be affected by other people’s emotional states, it is not healthy to be dependent on them, where we allow their emotions to determine ours. We are unintentionally devaluing ourselves by reinforcing the fact that we are incapable of thinking and feeling for ourselves. Just like you don’t have to ride the roller coaster with someone to support their decision, you can validate and empathize with someone’s feelings without becoming them. We want to be “in their world, but not of their world (Romans 12:2).”
ELIMINATE “I DON’T KNOWS” from your vocabulary. When someone asks you for your opinion, or what you are feeling, they are not just making polite conversation, but rather determining how much you value them based on how you respond. Since we tend to reward effort over results, if you tell them “I don’t know,” you are unintentionally sending the message that they are not that important to you, because you are expending the least amount of effort with your reply. You are also subconsciously devaluing yourself by rewarding your internal belief that you’re not worth the potential conflict a response may create. Avoid Lazy Phrasology by saying something like, “I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely think about that and let you know. Minimal effort always produces Minimal results (2 Corinthians 9:6).
MEN, your wife wants to be part of YOUR ADVENTURE, not be the Adventure. Guys, we have a tendency to make the woman in our life our focal point. Our time and energy is spent looking for ways to please her and make her happy. On the surface, this seems loving, and is often flattering to a woman at first, but over time this approach stunts our emotional growth and causes our wife to become bored and feel smothered. Our wives want to journey with us, not be the destination of our journey (Matthew 6:33).
ASK instead of Tell to DEFEAT DEFENSIVENESS. Our natural tendency is to assume we know how someone is feeling or what they have done, or will do next. We say things like, “I know you were at the bar again. That’s why you’re late,” or “You’re not being honest with me.” Even if what we’re telling someone is the truth, they will be more likely to want to defend themselves, if they are feeling attacked. Questions, on the other hand, seem less threatening, since they are giving someone the opportunity to share their feelings or opinions instead of having one given to them. For example, it feels emotionally safer if you ask someone, “It feels like you’re holding something back? Is everything okay,” or “Wow, you’re later than usual. Was the traffic really bad again?” People will feel less cornered, if you give them an opportunity to find their own path (Ephesians 4:29).
It’s RARELY ABOUT YOU. When your spouse gets upset, for seemingly no reason, your tendency is to personalize their negative emotions and believe that you are somehow causing their frustration. This motivates you to try and comfort them or help them find a solution, because their frustration has now become your frustration. Instead of appreciating your “help,” your spouse turns on you, and makes you the object of their aggression. You are now suddenly involved in a no-win conflict that you didn’t start, weren’t invited to resolve, and can’t escape. All of us get overwhelmed and throw a tantrum now and then. Usually what we need is for our spouse to give us space and time to calm down and regain our ability to think rationally. Often, the most helpful thing you can do is go in another room and do something kind like folding the laundry or finishing the dishes. Or, if you have kids, take them to the park and give your spouse the gift of a little breathing room. Just like avalanches and tornadoes, people often need us to just get out of the way and let them burn themselves out (Matthew 7:12).
We Feel SAFER, when we Feel SUPERIOR. We tend to think of people who look down on others, or bully or belittle people, as just jerks with low self-esteems, but in reality, these behaviors are motivated by a need to feel safe, physically and emotionally, rather than simply a desire to be mean. When you feel more powerful than someone, you tend to have more confidence and feel more at ease around that person. This is why wearing an expensive suit, or driving a luxury vehicle, often makes you feel temporarily better about yourself. But this type of confidence is not real, and cannot last. It is Dependent on how you view the people or circumstances around you. True confidence comes from being genuine and authentic. It is a state of being, not a feeling (Hebrews 13:6).
It’s Not the Falls in Life that Hurt Us, as much as HOW LONG We Stay DOWN. Too many of us fall prey to the mistaken belief of “If I dwell on the pain of my mistakes long enough, I will be less likely to go down the same path again.” While this thought process sounds logical, sitting in our pain too long actually increases the chances we will repeat an unhealthy behavior. We tend to beat ourselves up, get more depressed, and then feel justified to return to an unhealthy coping mechanism for pain relief, thus repeating this cycle over and over again. Instead, when we fall, we need to quickly assess our mistakes, learn whatever lessons we can, and immediately get up and move in a positive direction. For example, the best athletes in history can throw three interceptions in a row, and then on the next play throw the game-winning touchdown. If you fall down today, follow the advice of the great Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, “Get up, Move Faster (Lamentations 3:22-23).”
Rarely Does Doing the RIGHT THING, Feel Right. Whether it be exercising, eating healthy, confessing sin, or being respectful, many of the things that are physically or emotionally healthy for us, aren’t naturally “fun” to do. Too many of us let our feelings make decisions for us, instead of doing what we know is right. Feelings are a gift from God, to add value and depth to our lives, but He designed them to follow Actions, not determine them (I Corinthians 6:12).