Who’s Dominating Your Encounters?

Living Well

Whatever we focus on expands for us, because we feed it with our attention. So whether we’re thinking and talking about what we want, or what we don’t want, it will get bigger. It’s as if we’re watering seeds and giving them life.

One of my friends talks frequently about what she believes is wrong with people. It’s become her tendency because she keeps practicing it, even though she feels bad while she does it.

She’s a faith-based person, who aspires to be kind, forgiving and accepting. But her practice of finding fault has caused a momentum that’s pulling her along – what she sees is what she gets, and what she gets is what she sees. And it’s difficult to jump to a better perspective in the middle of momentum that’s going in a different direction.

Some people are able to change direction intentionally, even redirecting the momentum of their thoughts. They’re the ones who choose to look beyond whatever people are doing, without judging it. They focus on who people are rather than what they do. And by holding fast to that positive norm, they’re more likely to attract people to themselves who are doing the same, which makes it easier to stay in charge of the nature of their interactions.

So the question to ask ourselves is: “Am I engaging with people on my terms based on the norm I’ve set for myself, or are others calling the shots based on their moods?”

Whenever a conversation with someone isn’t going the way we want and we continue the conversation anyway, that energy will dominate our relationship with that person. And the next time we meet up, the same energy will probably be present, because we let our expectations about people build unconsciously out of our previous experiences.

So the best response to a challenging conversation may be to just walk away, without trying to fix what’s going on, and definitely without trying to fix the other person. When we’re in the middle of an encounter and we’re feeling bad, it’s not the people or the conditions that we need to change – because the answer is inside us.

We have a lot of programmed responses going on.

We can think and talk ourselves into feeling good or feeling bad. And on certain subjects – such as a job we feel stuck in, or a child who “won’t listen,” or a shortage of money in our bank account – we may already be leaning toward not feeling good, because we’ve been practicing fear-based thoughts and conversations about these subjects.

We took on some of those tendencies, to fear and feel bad, as children. We constantly interpreted our parents’ words and actions, and we developed beliefs. And many of those beliefs don’t serve us now, but they’re still showing up in our interactions as programmed responses.

My friend, who keeps seeing what’s wrong with people, experienced a rough childhood. To get through, she developed coping skills, such as getting angry and blaming people. And as an adult, she’s still doing it, even though it doesn’t fit anymore. She gets angry, feels bad, becomes frustrated that she can’t handle situations better and then beats herself up.

Until we get our childhood issues resolved, we’ll keep casting people in the roles of our parents, siblings and authority figures, and we’ll relate to them as we did as children. And we’ll use our past as a storehouse of evidence for holding onto negative attitudes and old behavior patterns.

But if we want to feel good, we’ll find a new way to look at old issues.

We can train ourselves to feel good.

People will do what they want to do. And if we base our feelings on that, we’ll probably suffer. We don’t need people to behave a certain way in order to feel all right about ourselves and our lives. We’re the deciders of what we think, and we can think what makes us feel better.

It’s not about being naïve or not caring. And it’s not about closing our eyes to the state of the world. It’s about consciously choosing what experience to have personally.

We can train ourselves to think differently about any subject – from our body image, to our prosperity, to our politicians. We can do it by thinking and talking about what we’d like to see, instead of what we believe we see. That’s how we shift our perspective.

If we’ve been talking negatively to ourselves about these subjects, we can switch to telling ourselves something that’s gentler, less confronting, less frightening, less condemning. And that will give us some relief, which will cause us to feel better.

When we choose to feel OK, no matter what’s happening around us, the less we’ll fear life. And the better the world will treat us, as our expectation of it changes.

If my goal is to be an up-lifter, and you’re a person who complains and finds fault and bashes other people, I’ll eventually stop running into you. You’ll just fall out of my life. And that won’t be a bad thing.

Where are we coming from?

Are we coming from a positive norm that we’ve chosen on purpose? Are we looking for the best in people, and pausing to appreciate that, knowing that people can only be for us what we choose to see in them?

When we purposefully practice feeling good about life, we’ll notice that we’re running into a lot of people who are looking at life the same way! And people who aren’t will stop showing up in our day – because the perspective and attitude we choose on purpose will be dominating our encounters.


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Author, Blogger, Contributor to Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, InspireMore and HuffPost