People often do not realize that actions and intent are two different things. Several articles ago I mentioned that, “people judge others by their actions but themselves by their intentions”, and this, along with tone of voice, are the leading causes of many arguments. Words can be sweet and light like feathers, or hit as hard as thrown bricks. Therefore, we must carefully choose our words so they correctly communicate our intent and, our actions should also correctly embody our thoughts. Think before we act? I am sure every mother in history has warned us that every action has consequences so we should choose them carefully. Most love hopefuls incorrectly adhere to a simplistic relationship algorithm, perpetuated by wannabe gurus and doctor feel-goods that:
Good intentions –> good thoughts—> positive actions = positive consequences.
This myth holds, that to reap good, one must begin with good intentions, this is only partly true. Hope is the life’s blood of all intentions, good or bad. Some of you may be surprised to learn that there are bad hopes as well. When a jilted mother, poisons her child’s mind against his/her father, it is with the hope that child’s resentment will exact vengeance for the scorned mother. When an ex shows up unexpectedly or begins to disrupt your new relationship, it is with the hope that their presence, if unable to woo you back into their arms, can destroy the peace of the new. “Anger, Fear, Aggression, Jealousy, these things all lead to the dark side”, (thanks Yoda©). Good intentions fueled by negative emotions, is the crucible which forges, negative thoughts and actions and yields negative consequences. It is a lack of understanding of our emotions and how they sway our judgment that leads to turmoil when dealing with conflict with our partners. Now none of us are Jedi©, so from time to time we will feel negative emotions when dealing with our partners. The trick is, not to let negative emotions drive our hopes or taint our intent. Let me give you an example:
Patty and Jeff live together. Patty is a law student and Frank is a sanitation supervisor. Patty studies long hours at home sometimes and is a bit of a neat freak. She likes order. It feeds into her sense of tranquility and allows her to study. Frank is not messy per se but he is not obsessively as tidy as Patty is. He keeps his home clean but occasionally he will come home and remove his smelly work boots and leave them where he is sitting which infuriates Patty to no end. She frowns and says, “if you do not stop leaving those nasty boots around, someday I am gonna toss those things”, and puts them outside. Frank came home early one day to surprise Patty with dinner and a play. He left his boots where he took them off and hopped into the shower. Patty came home to study. She sees the boots and in a fit of anger takes his boots, puts them in a garbage bag and tosses them into the dumpster. Frank comes out of the shower, kisses her on the cheek, gets dressed and surprises her with the tickets. She gets dressed, they hope in her car (much nicer) and they go out. For the entire evening, dinner and the play, Patty is brooding to herself and smirking about her act of revenge. After all, she warned him didn’t she? Frank is none the wiser. After what seemed like a wonderful evening the bed down for the night. The next morning, Frank is frantic, he has a regional supervisor inspection at his plant this morning and can’t find his workboots. He tears through his things looking for them. He finally wakes up Patty and asks her if she saw them. Patty then says, “remember when I told you that I was gonna toss those things some day? Well yesterday I did!” Frank, horrified screams, ” you did what?!!! I have an inspection today!” He rushes outside to find that the dumpster had been emptied the day before and his boots are gone. An argument ensues, angry words are hurled and he storms out. Now, was it Patty’s intention to hurt Frank or damage his ability to do his job? Or did she simply want to teach him a lesson and show him she meant business? This is a perfect example of, “when keeping it real goes wrong” (thanks Dave Chappelle). Patty’s intent (change Frank’s actions) was tainted by her anger, which manifested itself into negative thoughts (the plan to toss the boots) and impulsive action (throwing his boots in the dumspter and having them hauled away) and negative consequences (argument and Frank leaving). This particular story could have ended differently if she had handled her anger and instead used a positive emotion. Let’s use humor:
Same scenario, but instead of tossing the boots she hides them in his car with the windows up. Frank is again frantic and she wakes up and says” remember when I told you I was gonna toss those workboots? Well I decided to give you a taste of your own medicine, your boots have been in your car all night and they are probably sprouting roots by now!, she smirks. Frank goes to his car which reeks of hot boots and has to roll down his windows. “Maybe now you can appreciate what I go through everyday”, she snarks. Franks nods and says, ” I get it babe, I’ll take them off outside”, they live happily ever after. In both cases, the intent was the same, the emotion (fuel) was different, which led to a positive set of plans (thoughts), positive actions (humorous) and positive consequences (Frank learned his lesson).
So, in reality the formula for good conflict resolution is:
Good intentions x positive emotions = positive thoughts
Positive thoughts + positive actions = positive consequences
Remember that what you think will not become reality until you put it into action. Try to consider how your actions, despite their intent will effect your partner. If your partner is important to you, don’t let immediate gratification sabotage long-term trust and respect for one another. Do not let emotions cloud your judgment!
Try it and send me feedback!! Looking forward to next month
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