Do you enjoy peace and harmony with loved ones and family or do you find it all a bit of a strain?
Getting together with family and friends can be fantastic and fun but sometimes the idea of being trapped for even a few hours on a dutiful visit with a dreaded in-law, difficult relative or that dreary husband of your old school friend can fill you with a sense of doom. Often it’s our closest family members that can be trickiest – visiting our parents is a classic!
The trouble is we seem to get into a pattern with these tricky people in our lives – we want it to be different when we see them but whatever we do the same thing seems to happen, or we end up feeling that we can’t be ourselves with them and that makes us feel, frankly, pretty crap.
And it’s not just family that are difficult to handle
We’re often in a very similar dilemma when it comes to dealing with people that we work with or in other situations in our lives (that challenging colleague or judgemental friend). If it’s a colleague then we need to find a way to work with this person that helps us both to be more productive or that brings us into conflict with them less at least; when it’s a friend or family member, who we love dearly for lots of reasons, we can feel conflicted about their bizarre or hateful views that are at odds with our own.
But it is possible to see things in a different way
I’ve spent years feeling stressed about spending time with certain people. I thought that I’d tried to see things from their point of view, but hadn’t actually put myself in their position.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
There’s a NLP (neuro linguistic programming) process which I’ve found brilliant for tackling exactly this kind of situation, and when I first learnt it I realised that I’d used something very similar when I worked with Forum Theatre, which is a dramatic tool for finding solutions to problems by ‘trying out’ different ways of behaving or changing your response.
It really is about putting yourself in another person’s position
So, what if you were able to put yourself not only in that other person’s position but get an outsider’s perspective too? Often someone ‘looking in’ on a situation can see things that the people involved can’t see at all; maybe they can see from your body language when you’re with that other person how you seem defeated or that the other person is actually reaching out to you.
It’s about Perceptual Positions
When I used this the first time I saw almost immediately that I needed to change the physical dynamic of the situation I had chosen to explore, and that I could do that by getting up and walking. It sounds really simple, but part of what made it so hard dealing with this particular Difficult Person was that we always had our awkward conversations sitting in her kitchen (which I found depressing and claustrophobic), but that if I got her to come for a walk with me it was SO much easier – suddenly we were literally ‘moving forward’ and the conversation felt relaxed and open.
You can read a good description of the exercise here. And you can repeat the steps as many times as you need to, until you find the change that feels right, remembering always to take up the observer position too – looking in to see what an outsider’s viewpoint is brings incredible insight.
Want some help with this?
It’s a powerful process and sometimes strong emotions will come up, so it’s best to have a trained NLP practitioner guide you through it. If you’d like some help then get in touch.