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Some Insights into Why People Behave the Way They Do

Earlier this month, I spent three days in Laguna Beach at a seminar with relationship guru Alison Armstrong. Alison is known for her work in romantic relationships, but much of what she teaches applies to professional relationships as well. Alison has this way of making the complex simple, and saying things that make so much sense but that I’ve never heard anyone else articulate before! I want to share some of the highlights of what I learned with you:

  • Determine if something that you want is an expectation or a need. With expectations, the best result we can get is neutral: If an expectation is met, we feel just ok; if it is not met, we are disappointed. But when a need is met, we feel happiness and satisfaction! As I learned about the differences between needs and expectations, I realized that I was often unhappy because others didn’t meet my expectations. I started to discern between the two and realized that I could easily release some of my expectations and free up a lot of emotional energy. As for needs, those were few and mostly non-negotiables, such as needing respect in relationships—both personal and professional.
  • Do you suppress or indulge in anger? Don’t wait until “the alarm goes off” to express what you need. Often times we wait until our anger becomes bigger than our fear of expressing it before we finally say what we need. The reason we tend to do this is because expressing our needs feels like weakness. Many of us get angry that we need anything from others, and then get even more upset that they don’t already know what we need – I know I’ve done this before! If this rings true for you, then you too may be guilty of suppressing anger until you indulge in it. Now that we know, we have no excuse!
  • Has anyone’s bad mood ever infected you? Alison urges us to keep negativity out by distinguishing between “My Energy” and “Not My Energy.” She taught us a two-step process and a little hand motion to go with it:
  1. Establish a boundary within yourself that others can’t enter with their bad energy.
  2. After interacting with someone who is projecting bad energy, take a moment to say “my energy” and touch your chest, and then “their energy” and push your hand away in the air as if you were pushing the person away.

This really works, but it is hard to remember to do before you get infected by others’ negative energy. By refusing to allow another person’s state to change your state, you are owning your space and taking care of you!

  • My favorite thing I learned from Alison was from her research as to why competition arises between people, both in families and at work. Competition happens when there is sameness (people who have a lot in common, such as siblings or colleagues) and scarcity(perceived or real limits on time, money, jobs). This makes so much sense when I think of candidates who ask me about who they are competing with for a job (I hate this question because I always believe you’re competing with the best version of yourself!), or sibling rivalries where kids compete for parents’ attention. Have you ever had a close friend or colleague with whom you felt unwanted competition? If you have sameness and scarcity, now you know why!

Alison Armstrong is an expert at helping us to better understand why people in our lives behave the way they do. I hope that you have found some of my learnings interesting and hopefully helpful, too!