Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Changing Yourself to Change Others You Love--With a Little Help from The Tick


"Arthur, I'm the you that you want to be. The only thing that's keeping you from being me is you."--The Tick

"Once we shift from seeing self to seeing openness, we become truly appreciative of life and fully become a grace for others."--Michael McCormick

Anyone who watched the too-soon canceled Fox TV show, "The Tick," knows that The Tick was probably one of the most unaware characters in the history of television. A self-appointed doer of good, he was bound to do good no matter the cost to others or their protestations. His complete lack of self-awareness was one of the key elements that made the show so incredibly funny.

Many of us have at least a little bit of The Tick in us. We march forward believing in the goodness of our causes, the rightness of our words, and the purposefulness of our actions. We sometimes don't listen to the person we're "helping," instead heaping all of our "goodness" upon them--whether wanted or not.

Often, this only leads to anger, frustration, and misunderstanding (alas, not humor, like in "The Tick.") We are busy telling the other person how they need to change to be better. Then we repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. We turn into well-intentioned but ineffective nags.

As many of you know, my teenage daughter has had some issues. Up until recently, my approach was very "old school"--my way or the highway. I told my daughter in no uncertain terms what I thought what she needed to change about herself--over and over again.

It didn't work.

All it did was make everybody in the family mad, anxious, upset, and not wanting to deal with things.

After talking to a friend of mine (not a Buddhist, but someone who is a big believer in the Buddhist concept of mindfulness) and telling him about this cycle, he suggested something.

"You can't change your daughter. But you can change how you approach your daughter."

He suggested that my hard-ass approach was not working on any level. He suggested simply listening to my daughter when she was angry and just be willing to talk to her in a calm and reasonable manner when she was ready.

The turnaround was remarkable.

Not only did I feel better--less stress, less anger, less frustration--my daughter felt she could open up to me more. She knew I would not go all medieval on her if she told me she had done something I might not approve. We could have a calm and intelligent discussion about how to handle the situation better the next time. My wife and son were also less upset and aggravated and worried.

The change I wanted didn't lie external to me but internal. As the Michael McCormick quote notes, I saw and exhibited "openness," which became a grace for all of us.

Do not dismiss the importance of changing yourself if you are looking for change in others you love. And watch "The Tick," just don't be like The Tick.

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