I was talking with one of my friends the other day and she was venting to me about how her significant other makes her feel bad about herself. Since becoming a Certified Professional Coach, I have become much bolder when it comes to asking questions so I asked her “what is it about her relationship that makes her stay with someone who makes her feel bad about herself?” The answer was no different than the answer I hear on a regular basis from people in all kinds of difficult relationships and the answer was “because deep down he’s a good person and he doesn’t really know he’s doing it.” Hmm, let’s talk about this.
Unless you’ve never stood up for yourself or told the person that they are making you feel bad, it is unlikely they don’t know they are being hurtful. As loving people, we rationalize another person’s behavior to make things seem okay in our world. We allow people to cross the boundary of what is okay with us and what is not. Believe me, after years of working on this, I still struggle at times, but here is where it gets good. The situation isn’t going to change unless the other person wants to change! There, I said it.
Maybe you already know this but here is where it gets icky. YOU can’t motivate THEM to change. The pain of the situation for them needs to be great enough and appeal to their sense of self in order for them to want to change. Let’s use a different example. Pretend you need to lose weight and you’re “kind of” wanting to slim down but you still squeeze into your pants and you love to go out to eat with your friends. So, you make a change here or there, but not a really big change because the pain for you isn’t great enough to change.
What is the pain for you that makes you change? For some people, no pain outweighs their desires whereas for another person having to go up a pant size or having someone make a rude comment is painful for them so they make the desired changes. The thing is, that each person is different, with different life experiences, different childhoods, and different goals. Only they know what will trigger them to make the change and it certainly won’t be because someone else thinks they should. You may even have known them for a very long time and think you know what motivates them but how is that working for you so far?
Successful relationships, whether it be personal or professional, rely on a supportive, nurturing environment. If this isn’t what you are getting, you won’t get it by expecting, hoping or trying to force someone to change. Just because someone is a good person, doesn’t give them the right to make you feel bad about yourself. What is their motivation behind this type of relationship with you?
So, what was my advice to my dear friend? I didn’t give advice but we discussed how the behavior was serving her both positively and negatively. From there, I asked some hard and difficult questions to help her gain clarity and become aware of her reason for allowing the behavior.