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What upsets us about other people is usually their behaviour. Person A behaves in a way that upsets you and you immediately think (either consciously or, more likely unconsciously) “well if I did that it would be because I was deliberately trying to upset people or get some other type of negative outcome”. The behaviour is so alien to what we know to be the right thing to do that the only conceivable reason for Person A to have done what they did was to upset you.

And look, they’ve succeeded!

There are two thought processes going on here, and both are unhelpful.

The first thought process assumes that Person A shares the same values and beliefs as you, is motivated by the same things as you and is therefore going to behave in the same way as you do. In reality, Person A has had a completely different set of experiences throughout their life and as a result has a completely different set of values, beliefs and motivations to yours. This would be true even if Person A were your identical twin – and that’s a very important point to note. No-one ever has the exact same experience of life as anyone else so we all experience the world and our place in it differently. So next time someone does something that feels dangerous or upsetting to you, ask yourself “why might they have done that?” And keep asking yourself that question over and over again. You will find that you gradually stop making the automatic assumption that other people are dangerous or stupid or out to get you – which ties in with the second thought process

This is the thought process where you assume that other people’s behaviour is all about you, hence thinking “They’re only doing that to upset me”. We all think like this to some extent but in reality the only person’s behaviour that has anything to do with you, is yours. The person that has upset you or scared you or made you cross has probably not even thought about you because they are so consumed by their own “stuff” – their values, beliefs and motivations are what is driving their behaviour. Once you understand this, and take the time to figure out their real drivers, it then becomes possible to make an informed, conscious choice about how you want to react rather than allowing your anxiety to take over.

If you find that you are often made anxious by someone else’s behaviour it’s always a good idea to try to find out what makes them tick, so ask yourself some of these questions:

  • What are all the reasons why they might be behaving in that way?
  • Do they know how it makes you feel?
  • Would they behave differently if they knew it made you anxious?
  • Are they someone with whom you could have a conversation along those lines?

If your anxiety is centred more around how you think they might behave – particularly if you are anxious about their reaction to something you have done or want to do – then you have different questions to ask yourself, some of which might be

  • What reasons do I have for being anxious about what their reaction might be?
  • How has this person reacted to me in the past?
  • How much actual impact will my doing this have on them?
  • How important is it to me, right now, not to upset them?
  • Is my anxiety about their reaction actually about them, or about someone in my past?
  • How is my anxiety trying to help me here?

Unpicking your anxiety around how other people are behaving and might behave will bring you deep insights into the causes of it and in time help you to free yourself from it.

If you would like to talk through any issues arising from this resource please drop me a line at cathy@therapeuticcoaching.co.uk to arrange your free no-obligation coaching session with me.

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