I can be a downright depressing person to be around. Usually, I’ve made myself miserable in my own mind and blamed it on other people or circumstances. No, I don’t have any chemical imbalance or other psychological issues, I just learned to mope.
My dad taught me how to mope. I asked him one time, “How do I let people know when I don’t like something.” He told me to make a really sad face which I saw him do all the time. He was a good model for moping.
Unfortunately, I learned to be a great “moper”, too, which I figured out later in life was just another way of being a passive personality type. I avoided the issue by just putting on a sad face and going away or should I say running away from the issue.
It would take most of my life to figure out moping does not get what you want. For a number of reasons.
One, most people have their own troubles and needs and just get annoyed or nervous around a moper.
Two, moping pushes people away from me, so not only do I not get what I want, I isolate myself from others.
Three, people are not mind readers, unless I express what I want or need chances are it will be a cold day in Hell before people figure it out.
Sadly, it was feeling the end of my time on earth slipping away, before I pushed myself to express my desires. I don’t have the time to wait around for people to figure out what I want. I need to express it, now.
Through research, I learned two techniques that worked for me.
The first technique: be assertiveness with my needs.
This is new for me because I associated assertiveness with the assholes in life, those people that assert their wants on others and others accommodate for them, bending their own will to give the ass-ert-er what they want.
I would accommodate everyone because I try to be a nice guy, but there reaches a point where I need to say, enough and not mope about it.
It turns out assertiveness is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a way to be assertive without being a jerk. I learned three statements to tell the person causing the problem in a nice way.
First, describe to the person or persons your need and explain that in a neutral or objective way.
For instance, my wife and I committed to a group meeting. after we received the information and I read through it, I didn’t want to commit anymore, but I didn’t say anything, I just moped. She talked about it, but the closer the day came the more I moped. Finally, I drew up the courage to be assertive and told her in an objective, non-judgmental way that I did not want to go to the meeting, nor did I want to commit to any further contact with that group. I told her how the topic made me uncomfortable.
To my surprise, she felt the same way, but neither one of us had the courage to speak up. We both came away happier and more at peace with our decision. Imagine if I had just stayed passive and not said how I felt. We’d both be going to this “thing” that neither one of us really wanted to attend. We’d both be miserable. Instead we felt relieved.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” for us.
One more thing about being assertive with your needs: Avoid negative comments about the other person. When you feel the urge to be snarky, bite your lip, count to ten, do whatever it takes not to criticize the other person.
Just stay kind and calm in your tone and talk about your specific need, the time and the action necessary to do it.
Second, describe how what’s going on makes you feel. The other person, may already have some idea, but it’s still important to clarify how you are feeling.
For instance, I sometimes display moody, sad days where I can’t get myself going, where, nothing seems to interest me, but I know how to get out of it for me, but I don’t know how to tell people. My wife can see it. So, when I tell her how I feel she listens. Just yesterday, I mentioned how down I felt. She said, “Almost like you are suffocating?” I told her “Yes! my time spent on things that sap my energy have brought me to a new low.” I do things for other people. I like to help, and I feel genuine enjoyment from seeing the relief or contentment within them from my help, but sometimes it goes to far, because helping people is not my happy place.
She knows what this feels like. Her “happy place” is doting on plants, kids, and animals . . . and sometimes her husband. When she has time to interact with one of these three, her mood lifts almost instantly.
My “happy place” is creativity. When I get to create my joy soars. It’s almost instantaneous. Just writing this blog puts a smile on my face even if no one reads it.
I have my novel that’s nearly finished. Writing my novel puts me in my “happy place.”
Three, describe the changes you’d like to make. Be specific about what actions should stop or what actions should start.
Finally, I let my wife know the changes I need to make to get back to a good place with her and the family. I am specific. For instance, I set aside two hours of writing time. That’s my time. That fills “my tank,” so I can be more helpful and friendly the rest of the day. She honors this request. I am way happier during the day, now.
The second technique I learned is to be a “broken record.”
The “broken record” is what I need to use when, after I have been assertive with my need, the other person counters with the reason I can’t have what I want.
In the past, I would freeze up and just say “okay,” surrender to the other and then go back to sulking.
Now, with my life slipping away, I can’t do that anymore, but I don’t want to get defensive or angry or pout, so the “broken record” technique helps me stay my course in a calm manner. The Broken Record technique is three steps:
First step: State your need
Usually, I’ve already stated my need to the person and how I feel, but sometimes the other person comes back with why they need me to do or act a certain way. This is where the “broken record” comes in.
Second step: Verbalize the other person’s statement and then state your need, like it’s a broken record.
Whatever is mentioned as an excuse, verbalize the other person’s excuse, but then add your need. It’s important to say it in a way that doesn’t antagonize the other person like not sounding sarcastic or rude but sounding caring and calm.
I heard our neighbors in an argument in their backyard. The wife needed the husband to help more around the house and watch the kids. The husband gave her one excuse after another, but the wife stayed the course with the broken record technique. She mentioned his excuse, but then expressed what she needed. She did this over and over with each excuse he mentioned. She did throw in a few, “I need you to listen to me.” A few days later, I saw the husband walking the kids to school.
I will admit, I don’t have this technique down yet because it comes close to being in conflict with the person. It’s seems easier to do with kids than adults, but I’ll work on it as the need arises.
What I found with my new-found assertiveness is people appreciate my honest. Hell, I appreciate my honesty. It turns out that gut-honest communication is one of my “happy places,” as well. Maybe it’s yours, too.
Peace, Joy, Love