I told a story to the Professor this morning as an allegory into solving an issue she’s having, and realized that it applies to more than just her situation. So, I figured it might make a good post. Let’s start with the story:
Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess named Professor. She had long dark hair, dark eyes, and an independent streak about a mile and a half wide. Her favorite phrase was, “I do it mySEFFFFF!” much to the eyerolling chagrin of her long suffering parents.
Aaaaanyhow, I digress.
Princess Professor was quite clear about her likes and dislikes. Her mom, who wanted to be a Very Good Mother(tm), read the parenting magazines and had heard how imperative it was to develop a child’s palate. So, as she was advised, she offered Princess Professor a variety of foods at each meal, including some she didn’t particularly like. The reason for this, according to The Parenting Experts, was that babies and toddlers’ tastes do change. So a Princess or Prince may hate something one day and like it the next. This theory worked on a few things, but one thing that never seemed to gain acceptance was watermelon.
Now, the Princess’ mom and dad loooove watermelon, and so they bought it a lot. They would offer it to Professor, and she would take a piece off of her high-chair tray, and throw it down onto the Royal Dog. Sometimes, the dog would be in a perfect position to catch the Princess’ offerings. Other times, not so much. It was during those times in which the Princess Professor’s mom would be found scrubbing sticky watermelon out of long Sheltie fur, all the while trying not to growl at the Princess.
After a few months of this, the Princess’ mom said, “Ya know what? The little snot doesn’t like watermelon. I now have three options.”
Those three options were:
1. smack the Princess every time she threw the watermelon
2. force feed the Princess the watermelon
3. quit giving the Princess watermelon projectiles
I’ll let you conclude for yourself which option won out in the end. And they lived happily ever after. (And yes, Princess Professor now likes watermelon!)
This particular allegory made the Professor laugh, which was a secondary goal, but the real message is quite simple. If you are in conflict with someone you care about in your life, chances are there is culpability on both sides. You will never change another person’s behavior, but you can change your own. You must stop giving the other person watermelon if you want her to stop throwing it at the dog.
Does your partner get snarky when you simply must show him your gorgeous new sweater right in the middle of the game he’s watching? Hmm. Well, you cannot control his response to you. You can, however, wait til a commercial, half time, between innings, or even *gasp* after the game. If your coworker is constantly taking your lunch out of the microwave to zap her own, does it take that much effort to let her heat hers first? No. If your mom constantly criticizes your parenting techniques, then discuss any topic other than the fact that Johnny got detention today for shooting mashed potatoes across the table in the cafeteria.
Please understand that this is not about excusing other people’s behaviors, and it’s not about making you into a martyr. This is about making changes to your own actions to reduce stress. You may well be right in whatever example you’re thinking of at the moment, but the other person probably thinks that he is the one. And besides, you can be right all day long, but what’s more important: being right or reducing your stress? Your may seethe when your partner lectures you about responsibility, and the fact that you’re an adult who doesn’t need to be told to go to bed at a decent hour is undisputed. But since you cannot stop her (in any ways that are legal in this country) from talking to you, stop it before it starts. Don’t whine about being tired after staying up until Stupid O’clock the night before, and voila. No lecture.
It’s a lot easier to point fingers than it is to change the person in the mirror, especially when the mirror cheers on your self-righteous indignation. But sometimes, in order to ease a conflict, save a relationship, or prevent bodily harm and arrest warrants, it really is the better option.