I really love the quote from Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
To me, this is the ultimate statement of empowerment. Don't wait for someone else to solve the problem for you, or expect other people to do things that you yourself aren't willing to do. Be a leader. Go first. You have everything you need.
Gandhi may have been talking about large-scale social change, but the same principles apply in personal relationships, too:
- If you want your partner to appreciate you, start noticing what you appreciate about them.
- If you want your kids to honor your needs, start getting curious about theirs.
- If you want your superiors to respect your ideas, make sure you respect them.
- If you want people in general to share the best of themselves, then generously offer them the best of you.
When you go first, it makes it easy for other people to reciprocate.
Of course it's hard to conjure up authentic warm feelings when we are feeling unappreciated, ignored, and disrespected ourselves. Which is why, in these situations, it is important to ask for help. Ask a friend, or a counselor, or God, or wherever else you tend to go when you need wise answers and a good sounding board.
How you define the problem is important. If you see the other person's behavior as the problem to solve, you might ask questions like this:
- "How can I get them to ____?"
- "How can I help them understand ____?"
- "Why don't they ___?"
The thinking there is, if they would just change their behavior, then you could start feeling and acting differently toward them. But getting people to change is practically impossible. No one wants to be manipulated or told what to do -- especially if they are also feeling unappreciated, ignored and disrespected by you.
Instead, I suggest seeing the problem as you, and your current inability to treat people the way you want to be treated. This leads to different kinds of questions:
- "What do I need right now, and how can I get those needs met?"
- "What might I not understand about this person or situation, that could help me shift my perspective?"
- "What could I do that would feel like a step in the right direction?"
Questions like that are great because the answers are actionable, and don't require any cooperation from the other person for your situation to start improving. Usually cooperation happens eventually, though. Be the change, and change will happen.
That's been my experience, at least. Does it ring true for you, too? If not, what's missing? I would love to hear, as always.