Vail on purpose: Don’t always try to be right
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –“There is something bothering me,” Jonathan began. “I recently got back together with my girlfriend, Renee. We were living together and broke up a year ago.”
“How long have you been back together?” I asked.
“Six months ago we saw each other at a party. A lot of the hurt and anger seemed to be gone,” Jonathan said. “After a couple of dates, we fell back in love.”
“What’s bothering you?” I asked.
“We slipped into our comfortable pattern of being together, but have come to a fork in the road,” Jonathan explained.
“What’s the decision?” I asked.
“I’ve made my decision, so it’s up to Renee,” he explained. “I suggested that Renee move back in with me. We’re with each other most of the time and Renee has been struggling financially, so moving in together seems logical.”
“What reservations does Renee have about moving in?” I asked.
“It’s not the reservations she has. It’s her sister, Becky, who is against it. Last time we lived together, Becky shut Renee out of her life and she’s threatening to do it again,” Jonathan explained. “We got into a fight because I think Renee should make up her own mind. The fight reminded me of the reasons we broke up in the first place.”
“Tell me about the fight,” I said.
“I asked Renee what she had decided and she said she was worried about Becky’s reaction. I told her to forget about that and make up her own mind.” Jonathan continued, “I listed the reasons why moving in together made sense and again asked what she was going to do. She said I was pressuring her and I told her I was tired of our relationship being influenced by her sister. It was a mess.”
“Are you willing to try something?” I asked and he nodded.
I stood and motioned for Jonathan to stand and face me. I put my hands up palms towards him and motioned for him to do the same. Without saying a word, I pressed my hands against his and he immediately pushed back. I pushed harder and so did he. After a few seconds, I released the pressure and so did he. I asked him to sit down.
“What did you notice?” I asked.
“I wasn’t sure what you were doing, but when you pressed against my hands, I had to press back or you would have knocked me over,” he began. “Then when you released the pressure, I released it too so I wouldn’t knock you over.”
“How does that relate to the fight you had with Renee?” I asked.
“The more I pressed her to decide, the more she resisted.”
“How well did that work?” I said and he looked down. “How could you release the pressure,” I said using the metaphor, “and not knock her over or be knocked over?”
He thought for a moment and said, “Pushing didn’t work, so possibly I could step back and talk to her about what’s driving her confusion and frustration. Maybe if I tried to support her instead of force a decision, it might work better.”
“What steps do you need to take to release the pressure between you?”
“Instead of asking her what she has decided, which would be pushing, I’ll ask her how she is feeling about Becky’s reaction to us moving in together. If I start to get mad – which I may – I’ll remember pushing against your hands and try to release the pressure, even if I have to step back, stay quiet or walk away.”
Coaching Challenge: When people argue, many times the point is to be right. The next time you are in an argument, instead of trying to be right, try to understand the other person’s point of view. If it helps you understand this concept, do the exercise described above where you face a partner with your hands pressing against theirs. Push and watch their reaction and then release the pressure and see what happens. How can you relate this experience to the next time you are in an argument?
Sheri Fisher is a life coach who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband Tom and three sons. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. If you have topic suggestions, Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit: http://www.coachwithsheri.com.