Today, I would like to talk about winning. No, I am not talking about sports or gambling. Winning in a game or sport is part of recreation and can build team work; however, winning to some people means making winning a part of every interaction. We all have a need to feel that we are a winner. Winning over a challenge in a game or in our business like makes us feel successful. We instill being number one in our children because we believe that it promotes self confidence and drive to achieve. We encourage our children to do their best so they can be successful and feel good about themselves. However, we need to further clarify that winning and being right are not the same thing.
Let me explain how I believe winning and being right differ. In our relationships, we may feel challenged by our spouses, our children, our friends or co-workers. If you answer a question on a test right, the answer is right or wrong. It is black or while for the most part. However, in your personal life their is a lot of gray areas. This may be hard to see or adjust to. In a game or in sports the score will tell you if you are a winner, you may not be right or in the right but the score says that you are the winner. In your personal life you should not be keeping score or pointing the finger at who is wrong.
We may strongly disagree with their opinions, conclusions, beliefs, morals or even their description of recent events. What happens if you are competitive and feel that you need to win in your personal relationships? Do you have to win every argument? If you do not win an argument make the apposing party miserable until they relent? Do you keep arguing until the other person acquiesces to your conclusion? What impact does this have on your relationships?
I wrote a book a couple of years ago called, "When the New Becomes the Normal." In the book, I talk about how the new behavior becomes the normal behavior. That is why you may not even realize that you are steamrolling over everyone else or you may be the person who has allowed others to steam roll over you winning every argument. In fact, you may be at a point, where no one disagrees with you because, they have learned that you will never quit without a win in your column, even at the cost of the relationship. Likewise, you may be the person who has given up and lost your voice in the relationship because you know that you can not win.
Clients present in therapy that they are upset, frustrated and hurt by their partner, parent, child, family member or friend's behavior and they want me to tell them what they can do to change the other person. First, I cannot change anyone's behavior even if they are sitting in front of me every day for the next year. I will have an effect but they have to be willing to change and see a benefit to changing their behavior. I can only give them the tools to change their own behavior. When you change your behavior that affects the whole system; any change in one part affects the whole. So if you change the way you react to someone their behavior will be affected. In may be in a negative way, and that is the rub.
Yes, I just said that changing your behavior may cause a negative change in the behavior of others. You are only responsible for your behavior; not how someone reacts to your behavior. When we get a negative reaction we get uncomfortable so we readjust our behavior. That is why we have difficult to change your behavior. We do not like to cause conflict. It makes us uncomfortable. Conflict is messy. If you decide to change the way your respond to some and begin to express your opinion more strongly or refuse to "go along to get along" as you have always done, you need to be prepared to be uncomfortable. Change can be uncomfortable, but once you adjust to the change in the system you become more comfortable with the new behavior and the other person also become more comfortable with the new you.
Changing your thinking takes time and adjusting to living in that gray area of not winning every argument, improving your active listening and learning to accept that you cannot be in a relationship and be right all the time is never easy. If you are willing to acknowledge that what you are doing is not working and that changing will be beneficial to the quality of your life, you can make changes.
Helping my clients to sit with the discomfort of the transition in life is what I do. I give them tools that help them to gain back their voice, their confidence and improve the quality of the relationships. If you do not change your behavior, you cannot change the way you feel. If you want your life and your relationship to improve then you must take the steps, risk being uncomfortable and realize that you deserve to be happy and fulfilled in your relationship with others.