I was chatting with someone recently who was bemoaning the fact that she’d joined a women’s group and everyone at it was condescending. No one spoke to her. No one smiled.
When I asked if she’d spoken to anyone herself, she looked sheepish…
Serendipitously, someone shared a quote on Facebook about making life less complicated:
Missing somebody? Call
Wanna meet up? Invite
Wanna be understood? Explain
Have questions? Ask
Like something? State it
Want something? Ask for it
Love someone? Tell it
A friend commented underneath, ‘if only it was that simple’.
Imagine for a few minutes that it is…
There’s a principle in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that the person with the greatest behavioural flexibility in any system (or group), has the most influence. Flexible people have more choices – and a higher chance of success because of that. They act as if the ball is in their court, hitting it back one way, trying another, until they get it over the net.
If we keep responding to a situation the same way that we’ve always done (for example, not speaking up in a new social setting) we’re likely to get the same result (people not speaking to us). Take it further: when people don’t speak to us, we either:
- Form a belief that people are snooty, so we’re detached and cautious around new people, which causes them to be wary of us.
- Hope that someone nice will float over and rescue us. If they don’t, we’re back to ‘people are snobs’.
Rather than stay stuck in an unwanted situation, maintaining behaviour that isn’t working – do something new. If that doesn’t work, try something else. Alternatively, wait for someone else to change, or take the lead, or say hello. It’s entirely your choice.
Think of a situation in your life – personal or professional – that currently isn’t working. Are you searching externally for the blame?
‘He won’t listen!’
‘She’s dead against it!’
‘They don’t understand!’
Blaming other people lets us off the hook. Playing the victim gives us a sense of significance. (It’s called ‘secondary gain’ – and it’s why we choose to stay stuck in situations that another part of us wants to bolt from.)
Now – I’m generalising here – but women are renowned for seeking empathy rather than solutions. We love to wallow. We form little wallowing collectives. When someone (possibly a man) offers advice about a different way to tackle a problem and get ourselves out of our plight, we reel!
A solution? Sorry – we’re wallowing right now – this is a solution-free zone…
Take this too far and it’s a disempowering and frustrating way to live. Progress is slow. Things don’t work. You feel trapped.
But there is a way out. There are usually several exits that we busily ignore while we’re running our preferred storyline – ‘woe is me, right now!’
And here’s one way to find those exits:
Stand back and look at your situation as if you’re watching your life play out on a movie screen in front of you. You’re no longer inside the character known as you – you’re watching her and the way she interacts with others as an observer.
To distance yourself, give her an entirely different name. Change her hair cut and colour. Dress her in different clothes, then take some notes about what she’s doing as the scene unfolds:
- Is she repeating behaviours or thoughts that haven’t worked before?
- Is she making assumptions about other people? (What are those assumptions?)
- Is she forming beliefs about the situation based on how she assumes others feel or think?
- What choices is she making and how is she behaving, as a result of these beliefs?
- How is she limiting herself, and closing off the outcome that she really wants?
Watch the scene again, through new eyes, and this time:
- Play out several different endings
- What do each of these outcomes open up that is new?
- What could this give you? (List the benefits.)
- If you don’t explore any of these endings, what will it cost you?
We can act as if the ball is in our court, and be on top of our game. Or we can act as if we’re waiting for someone to thwack a serve in our direction – constantly on the defensive and playing catch-up.
Sometimes it really is that simple.
Photo credit: © Sergejs Rahunoks – Fotolia.com