Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. A great start might look like, “Be the change you wish to see in your relationships”. Great athletes are coached to focus only on what they can control. In relationships, about the only thing we can control is who we are going to “be” yet almost all of us try to control things outside ourselves and that’s where things start to go wrong.

When you feel powerless, the need to control other people or circumstances begins to surface. “Control” looks like fixing or changing something you judged wrong, then using mostly force and manipulation to alter it. The irony in all this is that you may feel like people are trying to control you when it’s really the other way around. It could be as simple as your spouse or child forgetting to pick up dirty clothes from the floor and you go into your speech (guilt trip) about how they promised not to do that anymore. When you come from a place of “there’s something wrong” the words you use no longer matter because the person you’re speaking to just feels diminished and made wrong so they usually get defensive. “Who you are speaks so loudly I can not hear what you say”. In the moment you notice the clothes, what’s important (i.e. to be loving and kind) in the relationship goes out the door and being right about them being wrong becomes paramount. In a strange way, feeling attacked by the idea of clothes being on the floor becomes your justification for saying whatever you said. There is a better way.

Instead of reacting to your feelings about the clothes, how about simply “being” who you say you’re committed to being in the relationship. The problem is that most of us aren’t even clear on what our commitment in the relationship is, so we keep reacting to our feelings. We react because there’s a part of us that feels out of control, and it’s upsetting, so we try to get rid of the upset by saying or doing something to control our environment. Although we feel justified in our actions, deep down we know it doesn’t help but we don’t know what else to do. We’ve all been taught, from an early age, by our family and friends example, to react in relationships. As adults we continue down that same path. It’s up to you to break the cycle of reacting and control. Learning to “be the change” in your relationships requires a lot of practice to undue decades of bad habits. Reacting is an automatic habit for most of us, but changing that habit is not only possible, it’s essential if you want great relationships.