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If Their Glass Is Half Empty

Being around someone of the ”glass half empty” persuasion can often feel incredibly frustrating and stressful; it can seem a real drain on your energy, can’t it? However, whilst you can’t control someone else’s attitude to life, remember you are in control of the way that you respond and behave…

choose to stay in control of your own tap

I came across a really good article recently from Jackie Ferguson which describes a great method for looking at the way you respond in given situations. You’ll probably agree that it’s always worth considering the options for creating a less stressful and more positive response.

To find more appropriate choices in responding to negative people, Jackie recommends using the FACES model, which stands for: Facts: describe the facts of the negative person and/or situation. Take an impartial, objective stance and eliminate all judgments and interpretations. Facts are consistent person to person while judgments are opinions and vary person to person; Assess: Write down what you were thinking about the negative person, the situation and about yourself before, during and after the situation; Choice of reaction: How do you typically react to this negative person? Emotions: Which emotions does the situation trigger? Self-esteem: How did you feel about yourself after your response?

This is a really powerful way to get a good objective insight to your behaviour and consider other choices in terms of your behavioural response. Let’s take an example of Sue and Paul, a married couple. Here’s Sue’s interpretation of her situation:

  • Facts: Paul’s angry about something I must have done and is deliberately doing things to irritate and goad me. It seems likes it’s been going on for ages.

  • Assess: He’s an idiot and he needs to get a grip of his immature behaviour before I just explode and leave him permanently.

  • Choice of reaction: I walked out of the house because I couldn’t stand being near him and couldn’t talk to him and went for a drink with a friend so I could get everything off my chest.

  • Emotions: I felt angry, unloved, disrespected, hurt and hopeless.

  • Self-esteem: I felt backed into a corner and powerless to do anything about it.

What sort of impact do you suppose this thinking and behaviour had on the situation?

This example demonstrates that Sue is buying into – or feeding – the issue. Her negative emotions are causing a lack of clarity and she’s jumping to the assumption that her husband is purposely doing “things” to annoy or hurt her and she feels unable to communicate with him. Her behaviour towards Paul becomes negative and the whole cycle spirals.

Let’s look at an alternative. Sue needs to determine how she can take control of the situation and what she would like the outcome to be. She needs to understand that there are two things of which she is completely in control: (a) her response to Paul and (b) her feelings; no-one can “make” anybody feel anything – how she feels is her choice.

Naturally she’d like the situation resolved and harmony restored; instead of jumping to the conclusion that Paul is deliberately doing things to irritate and goad her, she could take a more objective look at what might be happening. Yes, Paul may be angry – and it could be because of something Sue’s done – or one of a myriad of other reasons. Yes – he might be behaving in this way deliberately to make a point – however his behaviour may also be because he’s so entrenched in his “problem” that he’s completely unaware of the impact of his actions. To Paul – he may just be feeling fed up and a little quiet and could actually be oblivious to Sue’s feelings – hurt, irritated or otherwise.

If Sue wanted the outcome of the situation to have Paul recognise how he’s “made” her feel and apologise, at this stage she’d perhaps be backing a losing horse; to do this might require some change from Paul and Sue has no control over that. However, if she decided that she wanted instead to understand the source of Paul’s anger and his associated behaviour, this would be far easier to accomplish and would provide a good starting block for moving forward. It’s likely that all it would actually take is some open and positive communication to start with, providing she chose to maintain control of her thinking, emotions and behaviour and start from a non-judgemental and non-assumptive position. This would prove a far more effective means to resolve the situation, rather than stomping out feeling hurt and angry and just perpetuating the circumstances!

A good alternative for Sue could be:

  • Facts: Paul’s angry about something and I don’t understand the cause or the reasons for his behaviour.

  • Assess: We need to communicate so that we can resolve the issue as soon as possible.

  • Choice of reaction: I took some deep breaths to ensure I was feeling calm and focused and I sat down beside him. I said: ” Paul, I can see that something’s on your mind. Could you help me to understand what’s going on?”

  • Emotions: I felt calm, in control, positive.

  • Self-esteem: I felt positive and proud of myself for having the presence of mind to nip the situation in the bud positively before it escalated.

So you see – no matter what the situation you’re faced with or how negative you perceive someone’s behaviour and attitude, you have the choice as to how you respond. And we’re back to the equation that I mentioned in a previous article: Situation + Behaviour = Outcome. Or simply put, you may not always like the situation, however your choice of behaviour can determine the outcome!

If you’d like to get to grips with a better understanding of your behaviour and mindset, a clearer picture of how to achieve this is just a phone call to me away on +44 (0)7932 060360 – I’d love to shoot the breeze with you over coffee sometime!

Be outstanding …