Are there people in your life who drive you crazy?
Do you ever have trouble enjoying the time you spend with certain people–even though you may like or even love them? Are there people in your life who you only spend time with when it’s unavoidable?
So what do you do then?
If you’ve ever asked yourself this question then you may want to try a practice we’ve developed that makes spending time with these people a little more enjoyable. The first part of the practice is to remember that everyone is always doing the best that they possibly can.
They’re doing the best they can?
This may sound a little simplistic or even a bit ridiculous, but this practice really does have the power to radically affect your ability to enjoy yourself with these people. And they don’t need to change a bit for this to happen.
However, embracing this practice is much easier said than done. Whether you have a parent who seems to show constant disapproval, a coworker that never stops talking, a cousin who continuously whines about everything that’s wrong in their life, or whoever it is that does whatever they do — the truth is they REALLY are doing the best they can.
How can we know this is true? Well, think about it for a moment. If they are driving you crazy; do you think other people love this behavior? If you are hesitant to be around them; do you think others are eager to be with them? Do they seem genuinely happy while they’re doing whatever it is that bugs you? Does their behavior seem fun for them or effective at helping them get what they truly want? We tend to doubt it.
So if they knew a better way to relate to people — one that they enjoyed more, that they recognized others enjoyed more, and that was more effective at meeting whatever needs motivate their behavior — don’t you think they’d do it that way instead?
They are just trying (unsuccessfully) to be happier.
The first part of the practice we suggest is to see that everything they do is the result of trying to get their needs met or to experience something they value. The problem is that: 1) they just haven’t learned how to get to the core of what is most important to them, and 2) they haven’t yet learned how to behave in ways that help them get what they want.
So, the next time you are with your cousin and he starts complaining and whining about all the problems in his life, first remember he’s doing the best he can. Then, if you want to go a little deeper and have even more fun, you can start applying the second part of the practice, which is playing the Values Guessing Game.
How do you play?
The game is played like this. You start by asking yourself:
“If I was acting like this what would I value that I either want to receive or to contribute in this moment?” Then guess.
Here are a couple of examples.
If your cousin is complaining about his woes in life, and then you ask yourself why you have ever complained to anyone else about anything, you might guess something like, “It sounds like you’d like a little understanding for how hard a time you’re having with this?” Or, “I guess it would be a relief to know that someone cared about how you’re doing these days?” Or maybe, “I wonder if you’d like some support about how to take care of that problem?”
You see, he would probably value the relief he’d get from some understanding, caring, and support. This isn’t mind reading; it’s a guessing game that you play so you can have more fun in the conversation
What if you hear that your mother disapproves of how you’re managing your love life? You ask yourself why you ever offered relationship advice to one of your friends, and then you might guess, “It sounds like you care about me and it’s important to you that I have a happy and successful relationship?” You see, she probably cares and just wants to contribute to you and her disapproving words are the best way she knows how to help you be happy and successful in your relationships.
Being Right or Being Happy?
The guessing game is not about trying to be right; it’s about trying to connect with them. They’ll let you know whether or not your guess is accurate. And either way they’ll most likely have something else to say, which is just another opportunity to play. And this is not about trying to change the other person; it’s about trying to enjoy yourself more.
We know this may not be the most enjoyable way for you to hear a request for caring and support from someone in need or to receive help for improving your love life. Even so, you’ll be amazed at what can happen when you stop wanting the people in your life to be different than they are, start to recognize they’re simply doing the best they can, and then start playing the Values Guessing Game with them.
Give it a try. We guarantee your time with them will immediately start being more fun for you. (And don’t be surprised if they start seeming a little bit different too.)