It started by her sharing a story with me about a continuing conflict she has with her mom. Apparently her kids are pretty sensitive to too much junk food. They will literally throw up if they eat too much of it. Whenever her mom watches the kids she basically just feeds them junk food the entire time they're there and then they end up getting sick later. So, she talked to her mom about it, and then the next time she watched them the same thing happened. So, she wrote a very detailed list out for her mom that said everything the kids could eat and how many of each thing they could eat. She didn't pay attention to it at all and fed them junk food and they got sick. So, after this continued to go on she felt that her mother was not going to change and that left her with two options:
1. She could never let the kids over to her house again or
2. She could let them go knowing that they were going to eat a bunch of junk food and watch tv the entire time
After weighing her options she decided that she would go with option two, because her children loved her mom and she felt like the good outweighed the bad. They just might not go over there as often as they would if she didn't constantly feed them junk food.
She said that this was an instance, to her, of not throwing your pearls before swine. She said that she wasn't calling anyone swine, but that the situation had become swine. What benefit is there in wasting your breath and logic (or your pearls) on someone who is not going to change, no matter your effort? You come away frustrated, they come away frustrated and it's causing conflict for the sake of causing conflict. So, how do you approach a situation like this? You don't want to tell them what you're really feeling and thinking because of what we just talked about, but you're not going to lie to them and tell them that you're okay with what they're doing (because you're not!). So, what we do now is work on our neutral statements.
She said that she dropped her kids off recently, knowing exactly what the outcome was going to be. So, when she picked them up her mom said "We had a great time! We made brownies and ate almost the entire pan!" So, she responded "Thank you so much for watching the kids, I really truly appreciate it."
So, is she avoiding conflict here? No, because she has already told her mom exactly how she feels, multiple times. Her mom knows her wishes and chooses not to follow them. So, by stating a neutral statement the integrity of the evening is saved. There's no arguing or frustration from either party and there's no lying, because she didn't say something along the lines of "That's so great! Everyone just loves brownies, I'm so glad that you guys got to do that!". She genuinely was appreciative that her mother was able to watch the kids for them, and so she expressed that gratitude instead of lashing out or lying.
So, my question to her was "How did you mask the frustration though? Because I would have been super frustrated!" She said that she wasn't frustrated because she had already known that it was going to happen. She said that frustration often happens when your expectations are not being met. But, in this instance, she had learned from experience what to expect. If she were to expect something different, that would be living in a fantasy world. When you accept someone as they are and you expect them to behave within their character, then you are living in reality.
Here was my "ah-ha!" moment. I have always had a problem with having expectations for other people in my life that are too high, and so when they inevitably disappoint me, it can be hard to salvage that relationship because I tend to see them in a different light than I had previous to that. So, expecting them to be someone they're not makes me the foolish one, the one living in a fantasy world. When you lower your expectations, then you can accept people as they are. So you can make sure that your expectation level is accurate by writing out a list of strengths and weaknesses of that person and then writing a list of what I wish they would do or think they could be. That way you can visually see where your wishes are not lining up with reality. When you accept who they are, you're not accepting what they do as okay. You're just saying that I recognize that this is a part of who you are, right now. I don't necessarily agree with it, but if I can expect you to behave in character, then I can lower my frustration level which should help our relationship overall.
So, applicable story here. I'm having conflict with someone in my life right now, who is not my husband, but comes package deal with him (which is why this is in the marriage section of my blog!). Anyway, it was pointed out to me that this person has consistently lied to us and I get upset and frustrated because I am one of those that is truthful to a fault. I expect everyone around me to be honest with me, just as I would be to them. But, through history, it has been proven that it is NOT in this persons character to be completely honest. So, if I am expecting them to not consistently tell the truth, then it should lower that initial frustration level when I find out they're lying or in denial. I can also take a minute to ask myself if arguing my point, no matter how logical, is going to change how they think or act, or if it's just going to be a situation where, based on history, I would be "throwing my pearls before swine". You can't force people to see things the way you see them. Even Jesus doesn't force salvation on us, we have to choose to "open the door". So, try to see if your receiver is receptive to what you have to say before you waste your efforts. Now is that part where it's easier said than done, right? Until next time,