When someone close to us is acting in a way that is difficult for us, our response is often defensive—we react to their behavior. We feel like we need to do something about it—for example, we might believe we need to draw a line to make it clear that other person has done wrong in some way, or make a correction to their behavior.
This comes in part from our need to protect ourselves or from our desire to make sure that whatever we don’t like doesn’t keep happening. While putting boundaries in place and communicating with other people in this way is an important skill—particularly when dealing with certain people—there’s also another way of approaching disagreements that can be very helpful.
This other way is to ask the person to join into the experience that you want to have with them. This requires us to be aware of what we would like to have happen in the moment when it is not happening as well as to be emotionally clear enough to act on this knowledge.
There is often an assumption that, when someone does something that we don’t like, they did it intentionally, they were not able to see something, or they just disregarded our needs. But most often, other people are simply not aware of what it is that we want or need. And many people have not become skilled at saying what it is that they do want and need.
When you are in a situation where someone in your life is not acting the way you would like, try inviting this person into the type of experience that you want rather than challenging, defending, or putting a boundary in place, and just see how it goes.
If, for example, I want to work on communication with someone and they’re not giving me the type of communication I want, I could respond by saying something such as, “Well, you’re not communicating with me, and that is a problem for me.” It is clear in my response that I do not like the behavior and also that I am feeling defensive. Because of my response, the other person might become a bit defensive themselves, and we will likely bounce our hurt and defenses off of each other.
Or, I can come into the situation and say something like, “What would really feel good to me is more communication, and this is what it would look like to have that.” With this example, I have gotten rid of the layers of defensiveness and simply invited the person into the way of being in our relationship that I would like most.
While not everyone will be able to rise to the occasion, when it does work, you will see just how powerful this method can be. It might actually become an essential new aspect of your repertoire—a new way of relating to others, a tool that helps you get back on track and create more of what you want in your life.
For more tips and tricks on how to create your life in an empowered way, check out my youtube videos here.