Years ago I had a friend who I was quite close to. We worked together, went on trips, had great thoughts and enjoyed each others company. While I loved my friend there was one thing that often stood between us… on a fairly regular basis she was either late or would change plans without talking to me about it. This would bother me, I would feel disrespected, angry, and hurt. We talked about it, but it really didn’t seem to be that big of a deal to her so it kept happening.
One day, we were going to be leaving on a trip we had planned and she didn’t show up at the time we had set to meet. About an hour later she finally arrived only to tell me that she had decided to do something else instead. She didn’t seem to understand why this should be a problem for me and it ended up being a turning point in our friendship, and one in which we never recovered from.
Not long after I was thinking about what had happened and was looking at where my responsibility for the situation lay (as I find that is generally more helpful than looking at someone else’s responsibility), when it occurred to me that she simply had different rules regarding how to be in relationship than I did!
We each have our own personal rulebook on how to behave in the world. We believe that our rules are good. They work for us (mostly) and we usually have spent many years fine tuning our rules until they have become something that we are very comfortable with. Even if we know we could do better it’s always easier to stay with what we know then it is to take the time and effort to reflect and change.
Because these rules work for us our tendency is to believe that these are the same rules that apply to everyone. This is where the challenge comes in – they all have their own set of rules that may be very different from ours! My rules include that it is important to follow through with what you say you are going to do, show up at the time you had planned, and don’t make new plans when you already have some in place. To me these seem perfectly reasonable, but they weren’t part of my friend’s rules. And while I still believe that this is a rule that everyone should follow, that really isn’t up to me to decide.
If you pay attention to conflicts that you have with others you will notice that they are nearly always a result of these different rule books. What we find important isn’t necessarily important to others, no matter how much we love them or have in common with them. These rules are what make up much of our personality. They allow us to succeed and cause us to fail, they determine whether we look at the full or the empty part of the glass, and they certainly impact all of our relationships, including how we treat others, and how we allow others to treat us. If we can remember this when we are having a conflict we begin to notice when we start imposing our rules on others. Once we do that we can notice what rules they are following. This awareness allows us to begin negotiating a common rule that will work for us both. This is when our relationship begins to strengthen and deepen, becoming something that we co-create with conscious awareness and love, moving us into a partnership where all are respected and honored.
Cynkay Morningsong has been helping people find physical, mental, and spiritual balance for over 20 years.
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