By: Staci Stallings
As we go farther out in the circles from most close relationships into acquaintances and even one-time encounters, our defaults get more varied and sometimes more difficult to predict and manage.
For example, you might have a good idea of how you would react if your child ran into your house tracking mud everywhere. You might not be as sure how you would handle someone who cuts in front of you at a store. (If that happens a lot, you might have a good grasp on that one as well!)
Relationships can happen even between people who have never met before, like strangers on a sidewalk, new students in a classroom, or on the phone with a company or telemarketer.
Some of these types of relationships happen frequently enough that even if the “new” relationship is with someone you’ve never met, you still have a baseline for your default in that situation.
Let’s take getting on an elevator as an example. You might not ever have gotten on an elevator with this certain person before, but you probably have gotten on an elevator with someone before.
So what is your default in that type of “relationship”? Do you face forward and make no eye contact? Are you polite and inquire about their day? Do you try to help people out who get on the elevator with you and find out what floor they want so you can push the button for them?
You have basic defaults for these situations, and your defaults are not the same as others.
I live in Texas. It is not uncommon where I come from in small towns to wave at everyone who meets you while driving. In fact, people have their own “personal” waves. For some, it’s one index finger up. For others, it might be a full hand wave. I get nostalgic for my brother when I think about his wave, a full-handed flick of the wrist that you couldn’t miss!
What’s your default with new people in new situations? Are you friendly? Or do you avoid eye contact? Some of that may come from your experiences growing up, your parental influences, or your innate wiring.
For now, check your defaults and see if they line up with who you want to be.
Now for a moment, let’s look at the relationships between that outer ring and the inner ring. Let’s call them mid-ring relationships.
These are the people you interact with very often but that are not part of your immediate family.
In this category might fall teachers, bosses, or co-workers.
Have you ever thought about your physical reaction to walking into work? As you get closer to your work place, what do you notice about your physical reactions?
Did you know that most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings while people are driving in to work? I wonder why!
If you are a boss, what is the work environment for your employees? Is this a place they look forward to coming or a place they dread?
Do you set up obstacles to their well being–building an environment where employee is pitted against employee? Do you belittle employees or play favorites? Are the conditions safe for physical, mental, and emotional stability? Is “productivity” promoted at the expense of employee’s health or safety?
As an employee, are you encouraged to lie to customers or bosses as managers cut corners? Are you belittled, disregarded, or degraded?
All of these can become emotional, mental, and physical triggers for your defaults.
I remember one friend of mine who was in a manager position telling me that his bosses told him not to worry about his employees because they were “expendable.” Do you feel expendable? What is your default when you feel that way?
This area of life can be a real challenge because you probably cannot control the higher-ups and maybe you don’t have the freedom to quit a job that is providing for your family. I would suggest, however, that you find ways to bring your spirit, mind, and heart UP while you are at work. Maybe that’s playing uplifting music while you work, maybe it’s taking your breaks away from draining co-workers, maybe it’s taking the initiative to promote an uplifting space in the space you DO control.
Whatever it is, don’t just wallow in your defaults. Make an effort to change what you can change!
Another area in this mid-ring I’ve been very involved in is with schools. I have been on every side of the desk, and I have yet to find one side that I truly felt “empowered.”
When I was a student, I felt like my teachers held all the power, and I scrambled to make them happy. When I was a teacher, I felt very disempowered by parents and even to some extent the administration. I found out that my classroom and my rules that everyone had “agreed” to at the first of the year were merely suggestions when issues arose. I came to have very negative defaults when speaking with parents. Fear was a big one.
When I became a parent, far from feeling like I had been given power, it was often a real struggle to get teachers to understand issues my kids were having. Again, my default went to fear of having these types of discussions because I felt so powerless.
I don’t know the answers to this one other than each person in this situation HAS a legitimate stake in the outcome, and teachers who can let parents and students feel like a part of the solution do help. From the other side, however, parents who come into contentious situations with teachers and students need to also have a team mentality instead of a my-way mentality.
That might not help at all, but it is an area to look at your defaults when it comes to relationships.
Next time, we’ll be talking money and finances, so buckle up!