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Take Control of your Thinking!

Connecting behaviours pull others towards us. (controlling our own behaviour) Disconnecting habits push others away from us. (trying to control others’ behaviour)
Supporting Criticizing
Encouraging Blaming
Listening Complaining
Accepting Nagging
Trusting Threatening
Respecting Punishing
Negotiating differences Rewarding to control

There are two compelling reasons to choose connecting over disconnecting behaviours:

  • a) you’ll be happier, and
  • b) you’ll have better relationships with the important people in your life—which will make you happier.

Behaviour vs. habit

A behaviour is chosen deliberately; a habit is chosen with less awareness. A habit requires less thought, less attention, and less effort.
A behaviour becomes a habit through repetition. It’s comfortable and familiar. When a situation arises, it’s the first behaviour you choose because you’ve used it for so long that you don’t have to think about it. You can just do it—and you really don’t know what you might do instead. Figuring out something else just seems like a lot of work, and doing something else will likely be uncomfortable. It would require that you actually pay attention and change what you’re doing!

Sometimes habits become habits because of what we believe1: “Responsible parents stay up all night worrying about their kids, drive around the streets in hopes of finding them, drag them home if they do find them.” When asked, parents will admit that worrying has never kept their kid safe, but they do it anyway because “That’s what responsible parents do. What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t worry? I’m supposed to worry!” What you believe reinforces your habits.

What about connecting habits? A habit, no matter how connecting, is still a habit: it requires little thought or effort and may be inappropriate and unresponsive. But by paying a bit more attention, and with a bit of practice, you can learn to choose different behaviours:

Take driving. Many drive on automatic pilot. Driving has become a habit. If nothing out of the ordinary is going on, it may not be much of a problem, but it can become a dangerous practice when something unexpected happens, because you’re not really paying attention: you’re caught off guard, you’re unprepared, and accidents ensue.

Giving up disconnecting

If you wanted to use fewer disconnecting habits and decided to give up complaining, what would that look like? Well, you could begin by not complaining to your wife about your boss any more, because you know she doesn’t like it. Good start. Now, how about not complaining to her about the current political scandal? Or the slow driver ahead of you?

You may not be feeling better yet unless you’ve changed your thinking, too. Most of us don’t pay much attention to what we think, and are relatively unaware of our thoughts. If most of your thoughts revolve around blaming (“Oh, great, the kids made me late again”), criticizing (“Drivers like him shouldn’t be allowed on the road!”) and complaining (“I really hate the snow”), how are you probably feeling?

A belief is something we accept as true without necessarily taking a close look at it and deciding what we really think about it – or evaluating whether or not it’s getting us what we want.

 

Note: Don’t get caught up in “But it’s true!” It may very well be – but does that make you feel any better?

 

And what about your relationship with yourself? How many times a day do you blame, criticize or complain about yourself? Most of us do this frequently without even being aware of it, even though it reduces our creativity. What could you think about yourself instead?

 

Choosing to connect

Here’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s fine to give up disconnecting habits—but what do you do instead?!

And see if your relationships change for the better!