Good Intention, Even When We Drive Each Other Crazy

Bamboo Heart. Photo by Helen L. Stewart
Bamboo Heart

Think of one person in your work life who drives you absolutely nuts. Take the very first name that pops into your head, even if that name is a surprise to you. You may have thought rationally that dealing with someone else was harder, but if a different name from the one you might have expected pops up, go with it.

What is the good intention?

Then ask yourself the question, “What is the good intention ___ is trying to express by this crazy-making behavior? There must be some good intention regarding our shared work together, and even good intention regarding me, or ___ wouldn’t be so stubborn and difficult! Don’t think about this…just scribble something down FAST. What is he or she caring about so deeply that it is making both of us frustrated and nuts? And remember always, ALWAYS take the very first thought that comes to mind in seven seconds or less…a nanosecond… is even better!

What action on my part?

Now ask yourself in the same way, very quickly,”What action on my part, if any, could improve the situation between me and ___?” Remember, it is entirely possible that no action is required or even useful; there may be nothing to do. Was there ever a time when you did get along? If so, what went sour? (quick word or phrase, not a novella or history lesson! i.e., “She betrayed me.” “He’ll step on anybody to get ahead.”)

For just a moment now, suspend disbelief and imagine one thing you could do or say unilaterally, regardless of what the other person understands or does not understand, does or does not do. What would that one thing be? Are you willing to do it, even if you have absolutely no expectation it would “work” or improve the situation?

Now here is a last important area for questions that ultimately lead to understanding fundamental good intention, all of which you’ll answer without a “thought.” Scribble the answers down so fast that you don’t have time to think or edit your answers. Long hand is better than typing, too, for this little game. And be sure to write very fast!!

How am I like the person who drives me nuts?

“How am I like ___?” (I’m sure you have thought often and long about how you are different! Look at the other side for a change.)

“What is it in me and about me that triggers this intense reaction to this colleague? Who in my family acts like that?” (I’ll bet somebody does!)

What is my good intention in being so upset with him/her? What do I care about so deeply that is threatened by their off-the-wall behavior?” Clarity perhaps, or ease, or control, or a calm environment, or financial success? Is anything actually threatened, or is it just my fear that something could be threatened (like my sanity!) Maybe ___ will throw a monkey wrench into the usual way of doing things, or really hurt the bottom line.

Is there another way?

Is there another way to handle this that takes the sting out and diffuses the situation?

Remember, there may be absolutely nothing to do. But if you find something appropriate to do by asking and answering these questions so quickly that you bypass the rational part of your brain, DO IT and see what happens!!

Lastly, detach from the outcome. Consider this a little game of good intention that may or may not solve your “difficult person” problem. Have fun with it and wait to be surprised. Maybe now someone will give a war and you won’t have to attend!

Published by Helen L. Stewart PhD

Endlessly curious, writer, speaker, blogger, intuitive, author, consultant. Retired university academic administrator and faculty member. Citizen of the world. Traveler. Human being. Perhaps in reverse order.

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