I can’t tell you the number of times I have walked into my house and demonstrated palpable irritation toward my children because they haven’t done something I told them to do before I left (Put the groceries away.) or because I witness some form of absurdity they know I’ll have a problem with (It’s been an hour since you ate, and the leftover food is still out!).
My response suggests that my disposition is held hostage by my children. In fact, if they wanted to irritate me, they know exactly how to do it! I provide the button, and all that’s needed is someone to press it, and I’ll dance as predetermined. I didn’t enter my environment with a vision or an intention. I entered ripe for reaction.
Occasionally, I have the wherewithal to question myself about my level of irritation. Why am I walking into the house in such a bad mood? Is a display of irritation the best way to address whatever the issue is? The instinctive response to each question is invariably I wouldn’t be in this mood if they would just put the food away.
But this isn’t cool and it isn’t loving. I knew I had some self-assessment to do. In that process, I asked, “How do my children and wife want to feel when I come home?” and “How do I want them to feel when I come home?”
Instead of focusing on what I didn’t want to experience when I entered the home, I began to focus on the experience that I wanted to create. This was a major reframe. If I wanted to bring positive dispositions to my family, instead of having mine negatively determined by them, there was work to do.
My research began. Here’s what I came up with:
- Pick a family member and ask them to write down the top three feelings they want to experience around us. While they write, we write down the top three feelings we want them to experience around us.
- Share lists and let them pick the top three feelings they want to experience around us.
- For each of the three feelings they want to experience, ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I doing with supporting you toward feeling [fill in the blank]?” It’s very important that the assessor or the partner being asked uses a “1 to 10” scale. We may view this as an all-or-nothing pass-fail opportunity. It isn’t. An assessment of less than a 10 is not a 1. Let’s give our partner the credit deserved.
- Ask what we can do to increase that grade 1 or 2 points.
- Listen carefully to the answer we get.
- Work on it with genuine time, thoughtfulness, and sincerity.
- Let’s check-in with our partner each week to find out how we are doing. Let’s do so with curiosity and humility. We get to really care about their feedback.
This exercise is an important and powerful effort toward creating a healthy relationship. It is rooted in creating the loving and empowering experiences we all wish to have—and we get to go first.
Moving forward, instead of being led by our loved one’s actions that we don’t like, let’s be led by how we want to affect them in a beautiful, positive, and loving manner.
Moving forward if we are wondering, “How can I be more pleasant when I get home?,” take a moment before entering the house. Let’s say to ourself, “I insist on bringing loving energy to my children even if the circumstances I encounter do not meet my ideals.” That’s loving.
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Frank Love coaches individuals toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.