“My husband is upset with me!” “My children are complaining!” “No matter what I do, I can’t make my wife happy!” “My boss is so unpredictable, one minute he’s fine and the next minute he is yelling at me!” Do any of these sound familiar to you?
It is not unusual for humans to blame each other for their own unhappiness. It’s also not unusual to feel responsible for the happiness of another person. I don’t know about you, but I get really angry with myself and others when all my efforts don’t result in them being happy.
After years of disappointment I finally started questioning my belief that I was responsible for other’s happiness and other’s were responsible for mine. Once I started seeking, it didn’t take long to discover the truth:
Your happiness is your responsibility, not someone else’s. Which also means that you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness; they are.
So, how do you stop the crazy cycle and change your belief? I can’t say I am perfect at it, but I did find a couple of steps I take to help me step out of my old insane behaviors and set the stage for better relationships.
If you are the one who is upset ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it reasonable to expect that action from this person? In other words, would someone else in my shoes expect this same thing? (Most of us can convince ourselves that they would!) If so, move on to question number two. If not, adjust your expectation and reengage.
- Is it realistic to expect that from this person? In other words, based on the last 2 weeks, 2 months or past 6 months, has this person been consistently fulfilling this expectation? If so, confront them about it in a kind way and see if you can work it out. If not, you need to adjust your expectation.
When someone is upset with you, listen to understand them and consider what they have said. Do a self evaluation and then chose one of the following options:
- If you have done something to hurt them, apologize and do what you can to avoid it in the future. It doesn’t matter if you did it on purpose of not, if you hurt them: stop it, seek forgiveness and move forward with different behavior.
- If you realize that you didn’t do anything wrong and you realize they have an unreasonable or unrealistic expectation of you, tell them you are sorry that they are in pain, but you do not agree that (fill in the blank) is your responsibility.
People are upset because expectations have not been met. Many people stay upset because they continue to demand an expectation be met by someone who refuses to fulfill it. By refusing to realize their expectation is unrealistic, they are the cause of their own frustration.
Others enable the frustration cycle by refusing to stand up for themselves and let the people around them know that a certain expectation is unrealistic. Letting them know that regardless of how much arguing occurs, they will not budge on their opinion.
It’s not possible to keep everyone happy. The best we can do is to be as clear as possible about what our expectations are, adjust them if necessary, and to let people know when their expectations of us are unrealistic. When we do this we may have some uncomfortable moments in the short term, but we are setting the stage for long term peace, and better relationships.