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4.6 Calm Down
May 6, 2016

Authentic Self-Representation

This week’s Daily Pauses have all been connected.

First, we looked at how our inability to control our emotions automatically leads us to try and control other people’s behavior.

Next, we asked ourselves a difficult growth question: If _____________ never changes that behavior, can I live with it?

Then yesterday, we answered the question one of two ways: Yes, we CAN live with this person never changing; or No, we CANNOT live with it. If yes, we challenged each other to let go of our anxiety about that person and their behavior, stop trying to change them, and learn to love them anyways. If no, we realized a sobering truth: if we wish to maintain a relationship with the person, we have to confront them.

That brings us to today. If your integrity is telling you must confront somebody, how do you go about doing it?

In our book and program, ScreamFree Marriage, we laid out a clear formula for doing just that. It’s called Authentic Self-Representation, but don’t be alarmed by the big term. All you have to remember is this:

Calm Down, Grow Up, and Get Closer.

That’s it. That’s the formula that I have used countlessly to address issues in almost all my relationships, and the one that’s been used on me even more (especially by my lovely wife). This is also the formula I teach to individuals, couples, and organizations to help them face their conflicts and find their peace. It is what I was born to do.

Here’s what it can look like:

Your 15yo daughter is constantly taking too long to get ready, and you’re consequently arriving late for school, for events, for church, whatever. Yes, you as a parent could implement some disciplinary consequence, like removing a privilege, or even leaving her behind once or twice. Using your positional authority over her like that may be entirely appropriate. But perhaps you’ve already done that. Or perhaps you’re tired of always going to that well, ‘cause you know it starts to dry up the more you use it (especially as they get older). So, what else can you do?

Well, first, you give up the idea that you are the one who is supposed to find the right mechanism to change her behavior. Your job is not to control her behavior; your job is to manage your emotions so that she can learn to control her own behavior. That’s the core of Calm Down. It’s not just about lowering the rate of your heartbeat, or the volume in your voice—it’s about letting go of others so you can take hold of yourself.

Now comes Grow Up. This means exactly what it says: rise to a higher level of maturity so you can give the other person the chance to meet you there. This means clearly identifying your emotions about the situation. How do you feel about your daughter’s behavior? It has to be one word, and it has to be something other than “frustrated”. So, what is it? Do you feel unappreciated, ignored, unloved, betrayed, hurt? Are you scared about the trajectory of her behavior, and of you guys’ relationship? How does her lateness affect you?

Next, Grow Closer. This is where you actually do the confronting, but only after you understand why. You are not confronting in order to change her behavior. Yes, you want your daughter to change, but you want it to be her choice, not your force, that does the trick. You are confronting in order to authentically represent yourself. Relationships are built on self-revelation, and they only grow when the levels of revelation escalate. Since you want your daughter to grow into adulthood, invite her into a more adult connection with you. So, at a peaceful time (away from the morning frustration), you calmly, one-on-one, reveal to your daughter how her actions affect you:

“Honey, I’m tired of our morning routine, particularly my part of it—trying to get you to hurry up. Whether you hurry up is up to you. What I want you to know is that when your ‘getting ready’ routine extends past the time we need to leave, all the while expecting me to wait on you, it leaves me feeling unappreciated and used. I’m not sure if that’s what you want to convey, but that’s certainly how it comes across to me.”
And then calmly leave the conversation, leaving her to, possibly, reflect upon her actions.

I know, I know, a huge part of you is thinking “that’ll never work.” All depends on how you define “work”. If it means changing her behavior, then you’re right. It won’t work. If, however, “work” means changing your behavior, giving your relationship the chance to mature, and giving your daughter a solid invitation to adulthood, then it absolutely will work.

Trust me on this.

Next week we’ll apply it to other relationships at home and at work. See ya then.

Peace begins with pause,

screamfree hal runkel


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