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So your roommate does something to challenge your trust in her. It’s not even such a big deal thing—she forgot to pick up the vegetables for dinner even though she said she’d do it. You trusted her to do it and she didn’t, and now your new diet is ruined without vegetables to eat. You feel fury—and you’re about to lash out.
Wait just a moment. Can you remember to do just five things that may calm that rage and prevent a terrible blowup.
1. Avoid the double standard. We often attribute our own behavior to a specific situation or at worst an occasional lapse, but we attribute our friend’s behavior to a fixed, personal shortcoming.
You say about your roommate: Beryl didn’t pick up the vegetables for dinner because she’s selfish— always thinking about herself and her own problems. She pays no attention to my needs.
You say about yourself: I didn’t get to pick up the dessert for dinner because I got stuck in a traffic jam and the bakery was closed by the time I got there.
So think to yourself: Did my friend do this thing to betray my trust because she’s mean and selfish, or is it possible I could do the same thing, just because I’m a little forgetful or a bit careless?
2. Be a soul-searcher. Often when a friend hits your hot button, she becomes a monster in your eyes. You begin to finger-point: You did this... You are a... you, you, you. You see yourself as worthy and your friend as willful. How can she talk to me like this? Is she out of her mind?
Try stepping back and searching your own soul: Was I. . . ? Did I. . . ? Didn’t I. . . ? What am I not doing to cool things down?
Always remember, there are two sides of the coin. Here’s how your friend might see an issue of conflict—and how you might see it.
3. Walk out and start again. You and your friend are in the thick of it—furious and hurt. You say, "We’re headed for serious trouble here, and we’ve got to stop before we really do damage to our friendship. Please bear with me—let’s take a break. I’d like to walk out of this room and come right back again in a minute. Okay?"
You only can do this once. If you get in the habit of walking out during a conflict, it will surely begin to irritate your friend.
4. Use brainstorming techniques. Assume there is a solution to the thing that’s ticked you off, even if you both still feel terribly angry. Agree that you’ll each try to throw out a couple of ideas to solve the problem—and that you will not judge each other’s ideas, and that no idea will be arbitrarily discarded unless you both agree it’s unworkable.
5. Acknowledge that you’re sorry. Admit that you know you added to the problem in some way. Acknowledging that we ourselves are imperfect people eventually leads to button turnoffs, and finally to solutions.
Reflection Exercise #5
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