If you’re like most people, when you get accused of something you immediately become defensive. Our default reaction is to escape. Whereas, if we are not being accused, but just asked, it is much easier for us to simply admit to whatever we’ve done.
Over the years I’ve figured out how best to “confront” my kids when they’ve done something wrong. If I go on the attack by asking, “Why did you do this?” I’ve immediately put them on the defensive, which makes it a lot harder to reach a positive resolution. When I calmly ask, “What happened here?” or “How can we make this right?” I find that I can much more easily reach a productive outcome.
Let’s imagine a scenario where your spouse is pulling out of the driveway on the way to work and you tell them, “Look, the car is nearly on empty. Make sure you stop for gas right away.” Twenty minutes later you get a call from them telling you they’re stuck on the side of the road and need help. You already know what happened. They ran out of gas. The classic response would be, “Well, why didn’t you go get gas like I said? What’s wrong with you? I told you it was on empty. Why didn’t you listen?”
Because this is such a familiar response, your spouse is just waiting for the onslaught. They are now bracing for the attack. They know exactly what to expect from you.
Think Before You Speak
Rather than going on the attack out of frustration, there is another way to respond. You can just ask, “What happened? Did you run out of gas?” It’s very simple. Instead of saying, “Why didn’t you listen?” you could ask, “What happened, did you run out of gas?” And of course they’ll say, “Yes.” With that you can simply say, “Okay, let me help you so you can get on your way to work.”
All the drama is removed from the situation when we handle it in this manner. We’re going to help them out regardless, but when we react this way we are avoiding the divisiveness that hurts our relationship.
This may sound like a helpful tip on communication to you, and you may think that relationships are all about communication. But, I’m here to tell you that this is not just a communication tip. This is much more because relationships go a lot deeper and involve far more than communication. It’s not how we communicate, but how we FEEL.
The way we communicate reflects how we’re feeling. When we learn how to say things properly, the harsh feelings we’re having in the moment won’t be conveyed, so we won’t be coming across in an accusatory and confrontational manner.
My Tip: Do Not Accuse, But Ask
We need to understand why it is that we instinctively accuse. Once we understand why, we can change that and stop being accusatory.
What’s going on with us when our spouse calls and says, “I’m stuck on the side of the road,” is that we immediately get frustrated or angry. We start pointing fingers and making accusations because we are thinking of ourselves. We’re thinking, “Oh for God’s sake, now I have to call AAA and make sure they come and gas up your tank. What a hassle, why did you have to put me through this?” However, when we focus on the fact that our spouse is stuck on the side of the road when they need to get to work, it doesn’t matter why it happened.
Focus on the Reality of the Situation, Not Yourself
This is the reality of the situation. All we need to do is clarify that they ran out of gas and say, “Okay, I’ll get right on it.” Who are we thinking about now? Not ourselves, but them.
The bottom line is that when we’re totally consumed with ourselves we will never respond properly to others. But, if we can instead be consumed with the other person or with the reality of the situation, we will respond in a much healthier manner.
When you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can communicate appropriately, not blow a fuse and make all sorts of accusations. Flinging accusations at the other person come as a direct result of us being consumed with ourselves. Although this is a very natural reaction, it doesn’t work in the real world if you want to maintain positive loving relationships. We can instead choose to react in an unnatural, or what I would call a “supra natural” way, one that is far more productive and positive in tone and manner.
Powers of a Supra Natural Mindset
Think how powerful this mindset can be. Just imagine that the person calling you from the side of the road is most likely expecting accusations to be hurled at them. They were dreading making the call in the first place because they’re used to people reacting this way. They’re already experiencing so much negative energy before they make the call.
When they hear your positive response, all the negative energy they’re feeling is gone. Furthermore, this experience instills in them how beautifully unique their relationship is with you. You are not there to point fingers. You are there to cover their back, and this is always the case.
This creates such an enormous level of trust, a profound feeling of love and caring that it solidifies a relationship like nothing else. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever responded in this way, or if you’ve been on the receiving end of this type of response. If you’ve never experienced this, I encourage you to begin engaging like this with those near and dear to you so that you can see the beauty in just being there for them.
The next time someone does something that annoys and inconveniences you; I want you to do the following:
1. Assume a supra natural mindset
2. Think before you speak
3. Refrain from making accusations
4. Focus on the reality of the situation and not yourself
5. Calmly ask what happened and offer your help
Rather than accusing them of being irresponsible or of doing something they should not have done, even if it’s 100% true, just ask what happened and do what you can to help.
Keep in mind that you’re never going to change how they decided to handle the situation. You clearly told them to do one thing and they decided to do something else. But, what you can change is your reaction. And how you react to them will influence how they handle things in the future. Take this challenge to heart so that you can enhance your relationships and ultimately improve your life.
Photo: Getty Images