We are all different, unique individuals with our own way of seeing the world and our own way of doing things.
Sometimes the “different” things that people do can really get under our skin.
You know what I’m talking about.
Maybe it’s not worthy of starting a fight over, but every time it happens, you feel that twinge of resentment or annoyance.
Like when your cubicle mate insists on using the speakerphone to carry on all his conversations or your neighbor always mows his lawn right when your favorite show is on TV.
Do you ever take a moment and try to find out WHY they do it?
I have a little story for you about why it is a good ideas to find out the why.
The Towel Incident
In my bathroom space is limited. In order to have 2 towels (his and hers) hanging we had to install a double towel rack – the kind where one hangs in front of the other.
Now, being that I am a little bit of a control freak, I like to have them lined up perfectly – mine in front, my husband’s in back. Each morning, I would make sure they were “just right” before I left the bathroom.
But later every day, I would notice that they didn’t seem to stay that way. The towels would be pushed around and end up all catawampus.
Every time I saw this, it would bother me. I mean, why can’t my husband just leave them the way he found them.
Even though I didn’t really think he was doing it to annoy me – that was the result and a little deposit would be made in the resentment bank.
This went on for YEARS, never making me mad enough to say something, but still annoying me every time I went in there.
Until one day I witnessed it. I happened to be in the bathroom as my husband brushed his teeth.
When he was done, he went to the towels and pushed mine out of the way so that he could wipe his toothpaste smudged mouth on his towel.
All of a sudden, I saw that his action that had annoyed me for so long was actually an act of consideration.
True, he could have fixed them after he was done (but I know him better than that – I’m the one with the control problem, remember) but it never occurred to me before that he was being thoughtful by making sure he didn’t leave his grime on my towel.
Now, every time I see the towels all askew, it actually brings a smile to my face (right before I move them back) because I know it was created by an act of kindness and love.
How Can We Discover the WHY?
So now that we see that knowing the “why” can make all the difference, how do we go about gaining that knowledge?
Obviously, the first step is to ask.
Now make sure you ask in a non-confrontational way.
Not “Why the *%#$ did you do that?”, but more “I was wondering how come you …”
And then listen to the answer. Don’t be waiting to come back with a response about why their reasoning is wrong, etc.
Try to put yourself in their shoes and see it from their point of view.
Even if you don’t agree with their logic, at least you now have a better reference point and this can help you develop empathy, not resentment.
Of course, sometimes you can’t ask the person directly – like when a driver just cut you off or the clerk at the drive-through window was especially rude.
In this case, just imagine what is going on with them. You can tell yourself “Boy, they must be having a really bad day” Maybe in the case of that other driver on the road you can imagine that there alarm didn’t go off and now they are late for an important meeting.
And then, most importantly, think to yourself, “I’m grateful that my day is starting off better than theirs.”
This way you can actually find gratitude instead of anger.
In 99% of cases, the person does not do what they do to upset you or to get under your skin.
When you know the WHY (or you can imagine one), you can stop adding to the resentment bank and maybe even make a deposit in your happiness account instead.