In Othello Shakespeare writes, “Thou has not half the power to do me harm, as I have to be hurt.” In working with families, I sometimes hear a parent lamenting the behavior of a child, taking that behavior personally rather than understanding it is about where the child is emotionally and behaviorally.
Good parenting requires us to find our strength in confronting troubling behaviors rather than hoping to change behavior by inducing guilt in the offending child. Cultivating the attitude that as parents we have the responsibility to develop an understanding of consequences in our children puts things in right order. The temptation to indulge in hurt feelings seldom motivates as well as calm explanation and enforcement of appropriate consequences.
Some people struggle with being emotionally hypersensitive by nature and often suffer needlessly from the words and actions of others. The pattern of reacting with hurt feelings may feel so familiar and comfortable that communication becomes difficult and tedious. The first step in remedying this automatic response is to recognize it. Steps out of this pattern begin with clarifying what others really mean rather than assuming that we know what is meant. Clarification takes more energy than automatic pouting, but it opens up our power to respond instead of reacting.
Whether communicating with children, significant others, friends, or colleagues, a higher level of emotional intelligence and happiness can emerge when we choose to respond from a place of strength. With practice, our emotional thermostats can be tweaked for better relationships.