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4 Things You Can Learn From Therapists

4 Things You Can Learn From Therapists

In 2011 and 2012, I traveled the world in order to learn from the best therapists and psychologists. On my journey I met all kinds of astonishing individuals. A few of them had an inspiring and humbling mindset towards other human beings. These individuals were able to make someone feel appreciated, special and respected within only a few moments. At the same time they had a tremendous understanding of human interactions and how arguments or problematic behaviors arise.

During this time, I noticed that different exceptional therapists had a similar mindset towards their clients and people in general. Implementing these four mindsets in your daily life will help you to be more tolerant towards others, stay calmer during arguments and be more accepting when it comes to your own problems. Here are 4 things everybody can learn from therapists.

1. Even if you dislike a person’s behavior, you still can accept and appreciate the person.

Usually we dislike people because they behave in a certain way. We ultimately see the person and the person’s behavior as one thing. Therefore it is hard for us to appreciate a bully who beats other kids at school or sympathize with a person who lies to his friends. When somebody acts in a way that we do not like, understand or appreciate, we often dislike the person as a whole. Still, the therapists that I met where able to appreciate or even like people who did terrible things. This is based in their understanding that you can separate the person from his or her behavior. In a therapeutic context, this appreciation is necessary and builds the foundation for therapeutic work.

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Implementing this mindset in your everyday life won’t be easy, but it is tremendously valuable. You won’t easily be upset or angry with other people anymore. Also, it will be easier for you to give out criticism and easier for the other person to take it. Because when the other person senses that even though you criticized her, you still value her as a whole human being, she will be more receptive towards what you have to say.

2. You never know what’s good for another person.

“She would be better off if she leaves him.” “He should really quit taking drugs.” “Staying at his old job would have been much better for him.”

Do these sentences sound familiar to you? Probably yes! Most of us think they know what might be better for their friends or the people around them. We believe because we are looking at the person and his situation from an outside perspective, we can judge what is good for him and what not.

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The therapists I met were embracing a mindset called “Change Neutrality.” It describes the basic idea that you are neutral towards change. These therapists believe that they never know what’s the best for their clients. Of course they have hypotheses and ideas of what might be better, but they always tell themselves they never know for sure. They always view the client as the expert and their task is only to make offers to support them.

This humble mindset of not knowing what’s best for a person allows them to be accepting towards all kinds of behavior. They don’t feel the urge to push people towards a certain kind of behavior that is perceived as “good.”

Implementing this mindset in your daily life can take off a huge burden from your shoulders. Often, one feels responsible to help people to change. By understanding that you never know if it is really better for a person to change, you can relax and just accept how it is at the moment. Sometimes it is even necessary to make bad decisions to eventually grow and change, so by trying to change the person, you might actually take away these valuable experiences from them.

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3. Every problem was a solution, once.

When people are confronted with pressure or an uncomfortable situation, they try to find a way out of there as fast as possible. Although, in our society, it is not always possible to run away. When your boss is bullying you, it is often not easy to run, because it might be hard to find a new job. Therefore, instead of leaving the uncomfortable situation, you find a way to deal with it. You might get sick, and constantly oversleep to avoid him in the mornings or become a workaholic and be so good at your job that he has no reason to interact with you. For now you develop a great solution for this situation, but when your boss quits and you get a new boss who is nice and friendly, the constant oversleeping or becoming sick is not necessary anymore. So the behavior that was a solution to the prior uncomfortable situations now turns into a problematic behavior. Your behavioral patterns are not up-to-date anymore.

At this point a lot of people become angry at themselves because they don’t understand their own behavior and it seems irrational. Understanding that your behavior is not irrational, but rather just not up-to-date can help you to be more accepting towards yourself. Instead of blaming yourself as sick, stupid or irrational, you can be tolerant towards your own behavior and assume that at one point it was a very creative solution and is proof of your problem solving capabilities.

4. Behaviors are more dependent on the context than on the person himself.

When somebody acts in a certain way, we tend to think that he acts in this way due to certain characteristics of his personality. Given the case your boss screams a lot, you might think he is choleric. If one of your friends becomes very insecure around certain people, we might label her as insecure or shy. This is called the fundamental attribution error and shows that we tend to attribute people’s behaviors to their personalities rather than their circumstances or their context. However, numerous empirical studies show that a person’s context has way more influence on his behavior than his internal traits. Therefore very good therapists always ask for the person’s circumstances under which they show a certain behavior.

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You can implement this mindset in your every day life and keep yourself from judging other people’s behavior too fast. Instead of labeling behavior, you can explore under which circumstances it arose, and then this behavior just might make perfect sense.

Putting these mindsets to practice won’t be easy, so start with small steps. The first step is to simply notice when your old mindsets are at work. You could for example pinch your thumb and thereby be more conscious about what you are doing every time you say “You should really work out more often” (violation of mindset 2) or when you are angry at somebody because he behaved in an unlikable way (violation of mindset 1). Finally implementing these mindsets in your life will make you calmer and more tolerant, thus improving your life quality as well as the life quality of others around you.

Featured photo credit: Vermin Inc via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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