We often need to make difficult choices which intervene in other people’s actions. Maybe your boy is eating too much ice cream. Maybe your boss is leading the company you work for in the wrong direction. Or, maybe you suspect your brother is doing drugs.
It’s always hard to communicate facts that other people don’t want to hear. This often leads to negative results too. So why do we want to do it? How do you make yourself believe that you should do it? How can you achieve the right effect when doing it?
The reason is simple. It’s because you care.
When considering telling someone something you suspect they don’t want to hear, think about the consequence of “do” and “don’t”. Say you see a lady boutique worker forgetting to zip her skirt. Do you say something that may make the two of you have a short awkward conversation now, but she fixes the problem? Or do you pretend you don’t see it and allow her to be stared at and laughed at for the rest of the day?
Sometimes, the choices are harder because you are facing that person every day. Do you tell your subordinate supervisor that he is too soft on the staff and often is cowardice when dealing with them? What happens if you don’t? If you don’t change him, then he stays the same, the staff under him do whatever they want, including sometimes taking actions that are detrimental. What happens if you do? That depends on the delivery.
Deciding to talk to someone because you don’t disagree with their action can often lead to conflict or possibly some more negative effects. However, as previously mentioned, we should always ensure we think about what happens if you don’t say anything.
With so many reasons not to say anything, how do you convince yourself to say something?
Telling your teenage son not to play computer games can easily result in him lashing out at you. Then instead of 8 hours a day, he escalates to playing computer for 11 hours a day.
Your hesitation is then reinforced by the countless negative results that were obtained when saying something and now you don’t talk to him about anything anymore. How’s your day? Was the weather good? Did you win when you played until 3 am last night?
Only one thing will drive you to decide if you should intervene. Is it important? There are times when things are not important. But if you can’t let it go, then it is important to you, so you should focus on it and make sure to remind yourself that you need to do it.
“But… but… every time, he doesn’t listen.”
How do you make sure the right effect is achieved when you tell someone you disagree with their actions?
First and foremost, one cannot control other’s actions. Always think of it as persuading someone and that they always have a chance to agree or disagree. It is normal that they disagree with you, even if you think that it seems perfectly logical in your mind that he should agree with you.
For example, you’d think smoking is bad for you. It’s very obvious that it is true. So why can’t you convince a smoker to quit? The smoker is not considering if smoking is healthy or not. He probably knows smoking is unhealthy too. He is thinking things like change is hard. Quitting is hard. He may also even be thinking of what makes him start in the first place. He may be thinking of things like smoking is cool, or all his friends smoke and he will look weak if he quits. If you cannot connect to his thoughts, you may never get through to him by directly telling him the truth.
So, in order to get through to someone, always listen before being heard. Don’t expect others to listen until you are ready to be a listener first. Understand and empathize with who you are talking to. Remember, you actually care about your friend who is smoking, your family member who is gambling, and your child who is playing computer games until 4 am. Show them that you do care by listening, and not just directly for the thing you want to change and listen to everything that they have to say.
“But it takes so long.”
Well yes, it actually does, but focus on the people you are talking to. Think about your care for them. If you are truly thinking about them during the conversation with them, you won’t be evaluating how much effort you are putting in.
Once you truly understand the problem, you can begin to solve it. Convincing often starts with words, and how you deliver the words matters very much. Yelling and screaming don’t always get the job done. I wouldn’t say you should never yell and scream. It is a tool to catch someone’s attention in some situation. However, in most cases, it’s detrimental. Patience is often needed.
For example, your friend is gambling away all his money. He would give you a hundred reasons why he should continue and why what you are saying won’t work. If he can’t convince you to go away, he would yell and scream. Because he wants to be able to continue to do what he is doing, he is trying to drag you down to the same level and you yell and scream can give him an excuse to stop listening to you. He may even try to physically get out of the conversation, and you may have to be persistent and talk to him a few times. Never give up on him.
Logic is not the only way. You could argue it is still logical, but often in order to get to someone, there needs to be an emotional connection. A friend is drinking and when drunk, is hurting his child. In the moments of sobriety, if you can get him to understand and see what he has done to his child, at the same time, how much the child loves to be able to interact with the sober dad, yet feeling slightly afraid because he is not 100% sure sober dad is not drunk dad. Perhaps at this moment, you can get through to him emotionally.
Sometimes, it’s not just words that are needed. Your drunken friend by now does want to become sober, but it doesn’t happen overnight. There are many moments of weakness for him. Sometimes, it’s not just the power of one person and you can’t stay with him all the time. Bring him to AA for example. Go with him sometimes. Just be a friend goes a long way.
Always Remember W.H.Y.
Be Well, Be Happy, Be You