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A Good Daily Habit
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, March 2012

Going Beyond The Word

When someone uses a "less than flattering" word to describe you, how do you take it? Generally, if it is harsh or critical most of us take it as an insult, reacting defensively or offensively. The interaction either it ends or escalates at that moment. And the relationship reflects that interaction.

Consider what might happen if instead of reacting in that way when we hear what is said, we stop, take a long breath or two, and think about what that descriptor says about us in the eyes of that person. Perhaps, if we are really open, we may see some truth in the observation even though the delivery and word choice are harsh. If someone calls you stubborn, for instance, what is it they are experiencing with you that causes them to describe you this way? What is it that makes them feel you are being stubborn at that moment? Can you see their point of view? Is there ever a time when you can agree with their assessment (even if it is not at this very moment)? Are there times when your stubbornness is useful? You may think of it as a positive quality such as perseverance or determination but someone else may experience it as intractability or an unwillingness to bend.

Sometimes others become frustrated with our personal attributes and qualities because these qualities impede their ability to connect with us or accomplish what they want or need. They experience us as getting in their way. Consider instead why someone says what they say. Think about it less as an insult, and focus on how that quality can be both positive and negative, depending on whose perspective you take. Try to go beyond the word to solve the problem at hand.

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