Don’t Rock My Boat

It’s a reality for most of us in life: we desire harmonious relationships but we don’t have them. In fact, if all of the people around us would just be like us, do what we want them to do and act in ways that allow us to stay within our comfort zone – all would be well! Why don’t people just understand they need to accommodate our desires and make life easier all around?

Well, you know the answer – of course EVERY person has this desire. If I desire you to be like me, but you want me to be like you…we’re likely not headed for harmony. Think of the amount of money spent on career counselors, marriage counselors, business coaches and “renew our relationship” workshops. We’re in search of the answer to getting the other person in our life – be it a romantic relationship or a business one – to just behave. Even with the counseling, in many cases, people revert back to the same problems and the same issues. We just hope and wait for the other person to have their transformation and start doing what we need and want them to do!

But if everyone is trying to keep their own boat stable in the water and they don’t want someone else coming along and making waves, how are we all going to fit in the ocean? The uncomfortable feelings that are created when we are in relationship with someone else are actually there to teach us. The waves that come along tell us how sturdy our boat really is – how well it can withstand an impending storm and how seaworthy it is. Never rocking the boat lulls one into a false sense of “all is well.”

Relationships that are harmonious are wonderful. My closest friend from childhood, Carole Ann and I have that – we haven’t had a fight in all of our decades together. It’s a great feeling to know someone and know that they know you! These relationships don’t come along often and we want to celebrate and cherish them. But in many cases a difficult relationship is there to teach us something, too. It could be something that those who know and love us may overlook, or not care about. When we react with difficulty to another person, instead of “How can I fix them?” we might want to ask “What is this person teaching me about me?”

Did you ever stop and think why the loud and obnoxious person is upsetting? Why the person who cuts you off in traffic is a “jerk”? Why the person who won’t return your phone calls frustrates you? And on and on. Do people engage in behavior that is difficult and bothersome – of course they do! But most times, we can’t stop them from doing so. What we need to do is use the opportunity to reflect on our own reactions and wonder what their behavior triggers within us.

Learning about our triggers gives us more personal power. If I don’t know that I am triggered by your “bad” behavior and I just react to it, and ruminate on it, I’m wasting valuable time and emotional energy that could be geared to more productive ends in my life. I know I’ve wasted countless hours over the years, before I understood these concepts, on fuming over what someone did, or didn’t do, and thinking about how I would react and respond to them the next time I saw them. It’s not that we don’t address things that bother us. We should find respectful and productive ways to bring up things that matter and might enhance our relationships – when we can and the other person makes room for us to do so. But this doesn’t mean we don’t also look at the trigger within us. Reacting gives us a clue that there is something in us that the other person sets off. What is it and why is it there? Can we learn anything from it that might allow us to grow and develop for the better?

The people who stay in their boat in the safe harbor never get the exhilaration of the open seas. They don’t explore, they don’t learn new navigation and they don’t get expert at managing their craft. When you will allow your boat to be rocked, and not force the rocking to stop but rather explore what the rocking is about – you can’t help but learn something about yourself.

The first step in any kind of change is simply the awareness of seeing where you are, and deciding whether you want to stay there, or go someplace else. Take the opportunity this week to let go of the resistance to another’s style and instead use it to explore you.