Through my work as a counselor at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando, I have become aware of themes that seem to present themselves repeatedly in peoples’ lives, including my own. One of those themes could be called, ‘What we think other people should be for us’.
Human relations theorists suggest that every person is actually a ‘center of experience’ (his or her own experience) and each center of experience (person) is equal to any other.Each person also has characteristics that make him or her distinct from anyone else.To my way of thinking, treating others in a respectful way means that we actually have an attitude that recognizes the value of others’ differentiation from us. Most of us, if we even stop to think about this kind of thing, probably think we usually do this.
I encourage you to really check in with yourself about this by asking, “When I listen to someone else talking to me, am I somehow analyzing whether his/her words match my own beliefs and intentions (rather than just hearing them for their own message)? Do I find myself trying to challenge the other’s opinion, or prove my point? Do I tend to get mad, critical, controlling, rejecting, or vindictive when people do not match my expectations or do things the way I want?” If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can probably answer yes to at least one of these questions.
It is hard to realize that other people exist independently from us, with their own psychological substance and form, with their own wants, needs, interests, desires that do not necessarily mesh with ours. Sometimes we disregard this reality because we are experiencing our own unmet needs. “We are accustomed to thinking about what’s wrong with other people when our needs aren’t being fulfilled” (Non Violent Communication, Rosenberg,p.53).
Certainly, it is other people who help us meet our needs. The point, though, is that they get to choose whether or not they want to or can. It is not our right to demand, manipulate, intimidate or plead with someone else to fit our specific requirements for them. According to Rosenberg, we can learn to identify our needs and directly ask others if they are willing or able to meet them.
If someone cannot do so, we turn somewhere else for the needed resources to maintain our welfare. This does not include attacking, discarding, or demeaning another person for not being what we wanted or requested. The most respectful thing we can do is to continue to acknowledge and appreciate the individuality and value of that person.
I suspect most of us are not accustomed to thinking this way. It requires us to find the strength to be vulnerable. In a culture influenced by ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘dog eat dog’ kinds of thinking, this approach can feel very uncomfortable. I believe it is an important step towards grace, though, and that extending grace, both to ourselves and to others, is essential.
If you are interested in working with any of the counselors or life coaches at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando to develop your skills in identifying your needs, to form strategies for proactively getting them met, and/or to become freer to actually know and enjoy people for who they are, please click here to read our profiles. Feel free to contact any one of us if you want to schedule a FREE phone consultation.