Taking emotional ownership
There’s one choice you can make that will change your life for the better. No one does anything TO you, YOU do it to yourself. It’s your choice to give emotional meaning and significance to another person’s actions and it’s your choice to feel how you want to response.
The ability to choose a better emotional state for yourself is what I call “Emotional Ownership.” And when you achieve this, you will also be able to help others in their emotional state.
My friend Sara is a perfect example of someone with emotional ownership. Several years ago Sara told me about the time she was able to resolve an issue that was causing conflict in her relationship with her boyfriend. Her technique of resolving her boyfriend’s emotional issues about commitment utterly amazed me:
“If my boyfriend is emotionally having a hard time with anything in our relationship, or personally, I take responsibility in helping him get it taken care of. I don’t resist him or make anything more difficult, because I know that in the long run it’s in the best interest of our relationship.
I can’t tell you how awestruck I was when I heard what she said. I’d never heard a woman talk so directly about how she approached issues that affected how she got along with a man. I’ve never heard of anyone (a man or a woman) taking complete responsibility and ownership for the entire emotional experience the other person is having in a relationship.
There’s something lots of the different martial arts disciplines promote—you can use the strength, force, and energy exerted by the other person to your own benefit. When men and women argue or have other intense emotional interactions, what often happens is that the man will automatically take the opposite stance to where they perceive the woman is coming from. And women often do the same with men.
The better strategy is to go WITH the person, especially if there is some big issue at stake. But the key here is that you have to be in a mental and emotional place where you’re comfortable doing this—you have to have emotional ownership for what you’re saying, feeling, and doing.
To go WITH a man in this way, here are some ideas:
- Agree with the man’s argument. A man becomes attached to his negative feelings when he’s irritated, upset, or having a tough time with something. So he closes off his mind to other ways of seeing things. You can’t talk him out of them, and when you try to, you’re telling him that his feelings are wrong. This makes a man close him mind off even further. So agree with him. “Yes, there’s not much of a future for us.” When you don’t defend yourself, the man will start opening up and do it for you.
- Don’t whine, pressure, or complain.
- Find a way to be personally happy with the way things are and let the man be right with anything that he says is wrong. It’s not that he IS right, it’s that you can re-frame what he does with it.
- Be a little bit less available with your time and emotions if a man is being difficult emotionally, or won’t own up to his end of an issue. Give him the gift of missing you.
All these use the martial arts technique of taking the energy that’s coming at you and using it to your advantage. And if things are especially difficult, just have short and simple interactions. Be happy, succinct, and talk about things other than the issue that’s looming.