You have an awkward interaction with your friend. Do you blame her and wait for an apology, or do you proactively reach out to ‘own’ your part in it?
Your assistant does your marketing promotion wrong. Do you get irritated at her or do you calm yourself down before asking her to help you understand what went awry and how you can prevent it next time?
In the car, your spouse/partner is lost and aggravated, but won’t stop to ask for directions. Do you snap at him to ‘calm down’ and remind him he ‘always does this’, or do you take out your iPhone GPS and make a ‘note to self’ to print out directions next time (thus averting the usual spat.)
Your answers depend on whether you follow the 50% rule. Usually you want to change what the other person is thinking and doing because it is annoying you or making you feel upset, and you think they ‘shouldn’t’ do it that way.
The 50% rule is an approach to all relationships (romantic, business, parenting, friendship, family) in which you focus on being “impeccable for your 50% of the interaction”. It’s not about ‘being nice’ or ‘giving in to keep the peace’. It’s about taking responsibility for your part, relying on your own tools to get yourself into the right emotional state, and acting in a way that aligns with “who you want to be” in the relationship.
The benefits of being impeccable for your 50% are many: you walk away from the interaction feeling proud of yourself rather than guilty for lashing out. You preserve your relationship rather than chip away at it. You decrease the other’s defensiveness so they are more likely to listen to you (and if they are not capable of much change, you are already ‘in a good place’ and thus detached from the ill effects of their behavior).
And this is the most important: you are ‘in control’!
To try out the 50% rule, think of a relationship in your life you want to be better. Draw an imaginary line in between you and that person — everything on one side is your 50% (what YOU think, how YOU feel, what YOU say, what YOU do), everything on the other is theirs.
Notice that what you have been doing until now in this relationship may be efforts that “cross the line”. You may have been “taking on their 50%” (e.g., absorbing their negative energy, feeling responsible for their feelings, trying to rescue them) or getting them to act differently (e.g., blame them to get an apology; tell them they need to change; do favors for them hoping they will approve of you and appreciate you). The other person probably experiences your efforts as controlling and it may have backfired.
Instead, influence them to improve the interaction — but stay within ‘your side of the line.’ There are so many possibilities; here are a few to practice:
1) Take charge of handling your own emotional response
It’s so tempting to scream at the other person to “Calm Down!!!” When you are being impeccable for your 50%, you don’t try to get the other person to relax, you focus on relaxing yourself (so that you can actually deal with the other person in a way that is more calm — that will surely help them to relax!)
Before you snap at your spouse like in the example above, calm yourself down. Try a technique called “reverse breathing”: breathe in slowly through your mouth and breathe out slowly through your nose (this calms your liver where your frustration accumulates). You should feel a cooling sensation across your tongue if you are doing it right. This technique is so powerful that you will notice a big difference within 10 to 30 seconds (it’s so powerful I’ve stopped fights on the NYC subways with it)!
2) Accept others’ level of evolution and work on yours!
Accept that others are generally doing what they do for good reason (at least within their own worldview). Know that whenever people are being rigid it’s usually because they are stuck on an emotionally unresolved issue that deep down makes them feel bad about themselves (even though it’s not apparent to them). If this is the case, then expecting the person to come around and apologize is a lost cause. Instead of assuming your friend is a jerk, think through what you did before or after their awkward behavior that might have contributed to the breakdown, and take responsibility by clarifying and apologizing for your part.
By doing this you have cleared your conscience and smoothed the way for them to come back with a constructive response. If she doesn’t, its ‘proof’ that there is something going on in ‘her 50%’ that has little to do with you, and though it might be sad for you, she is essentially showing you her ability to deal with her feelings. Staying mad at her for not being more evolved goes nowhere; instead focus on your 50% and how you set yourself up to be hurt by hoping she would be more capable of being the friend you desire.
3) Be bulletproof in your word and deed
Instead of blaming others, put your attention on communicating clearly so you can’t be misunderstood. Focus on using a tone that is motivating and respectful (e.g., say “help me understand what broke down here” instead of “you did this wrong”). Focus on noticing what the other person is doing right and let them know. Don’t give unclear directions and then blame your assistant/business partner for not producing what you wanted.
As you “say what you mean and mean what you say” but your assistant/business partner doesn’t, it becomes very clear with whom the “problem” lies and who is going to need to change as part of the solution. It shifts the balance of power and gives you strong leverage in negotiation — others cannot point a finger back at you, they must take responsibility or you will choose not to work with them.
In short, take 100% responsibility for your 50%. Decide who ‘you want to be’ in the interaction and focus on being HER! The irony is that by concerning yourself with your own 50%, you raise the odds of getting the other person to act how you want them to act. Enjoy the power of being ‘in control’ without being controlling!