This was first published on KSL.com
I work with a woman, who is very opinionated with severe black and white thinking. I find myself getting upset by the way that she voices her opinions all the time and won’t even consider anothers point of view. We all eat lunch together and honestly, it’s getting hard to tolerate. What do you do with people who are that opinionated and not open to life having any shades of grey?
We are going to answer three questions inside your question.
First, why do some people see the world in this black-and-white way and feel they have to constantly share or even push their opinions on the rest of us?
Second, how do you know if you are one of these opinionated people?
Third, what can you do so people, who are like this, don’t drive you batty?
It makes life a great deal easier if you understand what is really driving human behavior. Understanding what motivates people helps us to not take other people’s behavior as personally either.
We believe human behavior is driven (consciously or subconsciously) by what we fear and what we value. So, we are going to explain the fears and values behind very opinionated, black-and-white thinking.
These people often have fear failure (that they might not be good enough) and they have fear loss (that life won’t be the way they want it to be). We know this because these two fears are behind almost all bad behavior.
These people feel safer if they have a clearly defined moral code, a black-and-white clear and solid code of behavior (the way people should behave) and other rules of correct living. If they have these rules clearly defined, they know exactly what they must do to be good enough. These guidelines make them feel safe. They also get a sense of safety from finding fault in the rule breaking and incorrect thinking in the people around them. If they can find people who are worse or wrong, it makes their ego feel a little better or right, which quiets their fear of failure a bit.
People who are quick to judge others as wrong are usually getting a strong sense of safety and self-worth from believing they are right. The more fear of failure they have about themselves, the more they might focus on black and white rules that prove they are right.
They may also be a tad controlling too because having things done “right” also makes them feel safer in the world. They are often defensive, territorial and protective of themselves, which can come across as selfish, arrogant and inflexible. They are often more focused on things being right and fair than they are on caring how other people feel.
These people also highly value ideas. They like learning and teaching. They believe correct ideas and doing things right are critical to success and happiness, and they tend to assume that everyone has or should have the same ideas, beliefs and values they have.
They also fear what would happen if their ideas (and rules) are not upheld. For example, people who are passionate about the environment and global warming value environmental issues, as well as fear the outcome if the planet is not looked after. They can at times be a tad judgmental or critical when they feel others don’t value ideas, beliefs and opinions or have the wrong ones.
Now, the question is, are you this kind of person? Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong and often find yourself in judgment of others? Do you ever leave a situation and realize you may have talked too much or dominated the conversation? Do you get irritated when people disagree with you and do you see them as less than you, because of their choices?
If these are resonating as truth for you, don’t worry – we aren’t saying you are bad, wrong or less than others for being wired this way. The truth is the world needs people who care deeply about right and wrong, but we must all watch for unbalanced behavior that comes when we function from fear.
If you aren’t like this but have people in your life who are, here are some tips for dealing with these people:
1. Show compassion toward the fear that is driving their opinionated behavior and black-and-white thinking.
When we consciously choose to stay calm and not react to the behavior of others, we are able to look at what is motivating it. Think about this woman at work, what do you know about her story and what she has been through in her life? Do you think there is some fear of failure in her? Can you sense that her stand on issues is about feeling right somewhere? When you look underneath the behavior and try to identify where it comes from, we step into greater acceptance, tolerance and compassion. See if you can show greater kindness and compassion to her and recognize her insecurities, after all, you have those too, they just manifest themselves differently for each of us.
2. Don’t react to the bad behavior, instead listen intently and then ask for permission to share your ideas
In the moment, when people are on a soap box and speaking down to us or sharing their strong opinions that we disagree with, we can become triggered and feel frustrated or angry. Often our ego wants to retaliate by interrupting or arguing, which can escalate the situation to conflict and confrontation.
Now, you understand their opinionated behavior is about their fear and their need for validation and safety. So, in reality, what they need is validation (which we know is the last thing you want to give them). If you can have a mutually validating conversation and make them feel safe, you might be able to get them in a place where they can listen to you too. You might even teach them something. The formula to having these conversations is on our website.
But, you basically must ask them more questions about their opinions and listen and validate their right to think the way they do. If you are willing to go here, you then earn the right to have a turn to share your opinion with them.
After you have given them some time to share and you make sure they feel heard, you can ask permission to share your thoughts. “Would you be open to letting me share another opinion?” This permission question opens the door for you to now be heard and share your opinion. If the person interrupts or tries to speak over you again, you have earned the right to say, “Excuse me, please don’t interrupt, I listened to your ideas on this, and I would appreciate you respecting my turn to speak and hearing my thoughts.”
This can be done respectfully and without confrontation. But remember, it’s not about changing other people’s minds, it’s about coming to a place where both differing opinions are respected and validating everyone involved.
3. Don’t take it so personally.
Other people’s need to be right or feel superior is their fear of failure at work. It is about their fears about themselves — it isn’t really about you. Ask yourself, “Which part of you needs validation and recognition for your opinions and feels mistreated when you don’t get that?” Is your fear of failure being triggered?”
All of us have this fear, on some level, but healthy self-esteem comes from knowing you don’t need validation or recognition from others to have the same intrinsic worth as every other person on the planet. Remind yourself that you are a unique, one of a kind human soul and your value doesn’t depend on your opinions, whether you are validated or liked by others, or whether other people think you are wrong.
As you remind yourself of this truth you will find yourself needing less attention and acknowledgment from others, and you will be able to better tolerate listening to the black and white views of others without feeling bothered.
If you are this kind of person and can recognize a need to be heard and validated for what you think, this is a great fear challenge to work on. Practice asking more questions and listening more than you talk next time you are with people. You will find validating others opinions feels even better than sharing yours.
Knowing you are lifting others up always feels better than being right. Practice setting aside your need to be right about how things should be. Try allowing people to have the same intrinsic value as you, even though their beliefs and values are different.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on KSL.com
I need help with feelings of insecurity. I’ve been dating this woman for a little over six months and we have a great time together. We both have been divorced so our lives are busy with our children, our careers, and trying to juggle everything, and make time for each other. When we are together I feel like our relationship has a future, but when we are apart, I feel like I’m deluding myself as she tends to fall off the grid. I know she is busy, but what is a realistic expectation for communication, phone calls, and texts so that we stay connected and part of each other’s lives? I’ve never thought of myself as needy, but I am finding myself needing more communication than I am getting. What can I do here?
There are a few questions here we want to address, but let’s start with “What is the right amount of communication in a dating relationship in order to feel connected and move the relationship forward?” The answer can be summed up in two words… it depends.
It depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of person she is.
Some people need more attention, validation and communication to feel safe and secure than others. Some actually need time and space without communication to feel safe and secure.
As you mentioned, you appear to be one of those people that are a little insecure and needy for communication and connection to feel safe. The question is does this woman know this, but she isn’t that into you… or is she taking time off the grid, because she needs that space to feel good herself and that need has nothing to do with you?
You may want to ask her some questions about whether she needs time alone and off the grid to refill her bucket or if she’s one of those people (like you) who likes to be in touch and connected most of the time.
The trick is getting the balance right for your relationship and that you learn how to ask for what you need to create healthy expectations for you both so that you don’t let each other down, disappoint, smother and overwhelm the other.
Sometimes we also have expectations (or have become used to the communication styles) of our previous partners, which could set the expectations in your current relationship, and this can be a problem because these people are different.
Here are four questions to answer to help you become clear on your needs and how healthy they are, and how to set healthy expectations in your relationship. Then, we will give you some language and communication tips on how to ask for your needs to be met.
1. Why do I need constant communication — am I looking for validation?
This question is an important one to sit with. When your phone beeps with texts as the day goes along does it make you feel validated, special and important? The answer I imagine is yes, as it’s this way for all of us. Therefore, if the phone doesn’t ring or buzz with texts, do you find yourself experiencing self-doubt or not feeling as valuable?
We say that not getting messages is then triggering your fear of failure – the fear that you may not be good enough. Therefore, feelings of insecurity and doubt about your relationships may creep in whenever the communication slows down. It’s like your self-worth and self-esteem get a little boost every time you are communicating, and your ego and self-confidence get used to this boost, and this means when it’s not there, the fear creeps in, you start comparing yourself to others and you feel less of value and importance. When your self-worth is relying on these messages, it will always go up and down, and you will always feel at risk.
If you want a healthy relationship, you must start with a healthy self-belief and confidence that is consistent so you don’t ride a rollercoaster of emotion and make your self-esteem your partners responsibility.
Ideally, you want to be in a place where you feel valuable, important and worthy all by yourself and when you receive it from others it makes your self-love tank overflow not fill up. To achieve this, you may need to change the factors that determine your worth. We recommend a perspective that says your intrinsic value does not change when you receive attention from others and it does not change when you don’t either because you see your intrinsic worth (and the worth of all human beings) as unchangeable and the same all the time, no matter what.
You are unique, a one of a kind, and there never will ever be another you (just like everyone else on the planet) this means you have infinite and absolute worth, that no person or experience can diminish or change. At least you can see it this way if you want to because it’s all perspective.
We recommend you watch yourself and the boost you receive from others when you receive attention through communication and just remind yourself that your value and self-esteem does not depend on the contact or attention you receive from your significant other. The more you work on this, you will enjoy validation and attention, but you won’t need it to be OK and happy.
2. Do I need communication to feel that I belong?
Many of us have a deep desire to belong to someone or something as a way of feeling connected and worthwhile. Being invited to things, included, and asked for your ideas and input makes us feel valued and that we belong. This feeling of belonging can make you feel safe and secure in the world and that you don’t have to face your challenges and trials on your own. Without connection through constant communication, many people feel isolated, disconnected and that they just don’t belong
This becomes a problem when you need this feeling of belonging as a crutch, or a safety net of sorts. Once again, this is dangerous ground where we place our safety and confidence in the hands of other people and do not take responsibility for it ourselves.
Watch for this need to belong and the safety and confidence it gives you. Explore the idea of feeling strong, courageous and secure without constant communication. This will give you an idea of whether you really have displaced yourself and are looking to others to make you feel OK.
3. Do I feel comfortable being alone?
We all have different levels of comfort and security in our own company. Many of us fill up and feel most balanced with other people around. Other people feel their best and more balanced when they get a chance to be alone to fill up their cup. They might like to read, exercise or even just hang around the house all alone, and this restores them so they have the energy to pour into the people they love later on.
These two ways of restoring and refueling can often cause miscommunication and misaligned communication expectations in relationships. For example, if you are a person who feels best with other people close and your significant other likes to be alone, you might see this as rejection or take it personally. In fact, this is not about you at all, it’s just about her ability to restore balance for herself, so it’s going to cause problems if you are offended. Discussing this with your partner helps you both set realistic expectations and make sure your needs and hers get met.
4. Do I make myself and my life happy, do I have enough interests, passions or hobbies?
Is your life (without your love interest) rich, full of interests and happiness or have you placed a lot of expectations and pressure on this relationship to fulfill all your needs?
Often, we are so excited about our relationship and we enjoy each other’s company so much that we can unknowingly place all our joy in this one place. We can neglect our self-care, our balance, our friends, our family, our hobbies and maybe even our career as we just want to spend our time with our new love. This can be unhealthy and dangerous ground as long-lasting and healthy relationships have balance on both sides.
Maintaining your relationships with your friends and family, continuing to make time for your hobbies, and ensuring you still look after yourself with exercise, good food and sleep, is essential to you being your best. When you are balanced your relationship will thrive.
Some of these might or might not have been accurate for you, but keep in mind nothing can make love die quicker than neediness and co-dependence, and nothing is more attractive than confidence.
You may also want to put yourself in the shoes of your love and even ask yourself how she would answer these four questions. Once you feel like you have been objective you may want to have an open a discussion with her about your needs and expectations in the relationship. Ask her to tell you what she expects first, then ask if you can share your - but don’t come across needy or weak and make sure she does not feel attacked or criticized.
Remember to have fun, laugh and to keep the communication you have meaningful, engaging and enjoyable. When you become too serious or high maintenance you will push people away.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and Nicole Cunningham is a master coach and sought after speaker. You can get more free relationship resources at www.upskillrelationships.com
My brother and sister-in-law moved close to our house this summer. One of their sons (my son’s cousin) is a real tyrant though, who insists on having control and manipulates my son. This bossy kid is unable to share and demands his way with tantrums constantly. I don’t know how to address this behavior with my son. I do not feel it is healthy for anyone to boss others around like this. I would never allow my child to do that. What would be the best way to bring this up with my son and teach him to stand up for himself, or talk about it with my sister-in-law and ask her to work with her child on this? These situations can be so awkward and I don’t know where to start because I don’t want to offend, but I hate how my child is being treated.
You are really asking me two questions. The first is how do I teach my child to enforce boundaries and not get pushed around by others? The second is should I bring up bad behavior to the child’s parent and how does one handle a conversation like that without offending?
We get a little excited by these people problems though, because there are great learning opportunities here for everyone involved. For you, it is a great exercise in speaking your truth and being your child’s advocate, and for your child, there is important opportunity to learn how to enforce boundaries and decide how they will allow other people to treat them. Learning this now could save your child years and years of trouble later in life. The bossy cousin also has a great lesson coming, about how you must treat people if you want them to stay in your life.
We would recommend you start with a conversation with your child, though, and see if he can change the situation by enforcing boundaries on his own. We believe teaching children to enforce boundaries is one of the most important things you can teach them because it will set them up to have healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
Adults also need to work on finding a healthy balance between showing up for others and taking care of ourselves. Most of us find showing up for others is easier than taking care of ourselves. We believe this happens because you have been subconsciously programmed to see taking care of yourself as selfish and bad — but it’s not selfish. It’s healthy and wise.
If you don’t take care of yourself, ask for what you need and stand up for yourself, you will soon be empty and have nothing else to give to anyone. Remember, you are the one in charge of making sure your needs are met and your bucket stays full. This could mean staying away from people who drain you, asking for the time alone, or for whatever space you need to refill and nurture yourself. You must show your children how to do this by example. If you struggle with this, we highly recommend you get some coaching or counseling to work on worthiness and receiving.
Or you might have the opposite problem and be really good at taking care of yourself, but struggle to want to show up for others. Either way, you get to work on balance.
Here are some tips on teaching children to enforce boundaries:
1. Ask questions
Find a time to ask your kids some questions about how they feel about playing with the cousin who insists on controlling them and always having his way. Ask them how it makes them feel and what they think is fair in those situations.
Great Parenting Tip: You should always ask questions and listen to your children before you give any advice on anything. Find out what they already know and ask questions to see if they can figure out the right answer on their own.
2. Ask permission to share
If they can’t see the answer, then ask if they would be open to some ideas on how they might handle the situation.
Great Parenting Tip: Always ask permission to share your ideas or advice and make sure the child is open to it before you say a word. This shows you respect them and their views. (Do this with adults, friends and family too).
3. Teach principles
Once you have permission, explain to them the concept of compromise and explain the need for everyone to have a say and to have a turn. Spend time teaching your children the importance of seeing everyone as the same (in importance and value) and that everyone should have the opportunity to choose how and what to play.
It’s important as you discuss the behavior of the cousin, you do not put him down in any way. You have a great opportunity to teach compassion here and this child has the same value as your children, it’s only his behavior that you are commenting on, not his intrinsic worth as a person.
4. Give them language
Equip your child with the language to enforce boundaries through role-playing the scenarios with him. This will help him feel confident to discuss the problem next time it occurs. Teach him how to stand firm and share his feelings lovingly using language like, “I think it would be fair for all of us to have a turn at deciding the game today. When you choose all the time it makes me not want to play with you.” or “Absolutely, let’s play your game, and then let me have a turn at deciding the next game so we all get to do what we want to do.”
If language such as this is unsuccessful and the cousin’s behavior doesn’t change, then it’s very helpful to equip your children with the language to excuse themselves from the play or ask for help from an adult, without appearing like a tattle tale. Giving him phrases such as “OK, I don’t feel this is fair that you keep choosing the game and it’s not very fun for me to go along with your ideas all the time, so I’m going to go home and play by myself for a while and choose something I want to do.”
You can decide from there whether to speak to the child’s mother yourself or just keep your son at home with you. The other mother may ask, at some point, what’s going on and why your child won’t come play anymore. Be prepared with the same tips above to have a loving conversation with the mother. Ask questions and listen first to see if she has seen any problems or concerns when the boys played together. Find out if she was aware, at all, of what was happening. Then, ask permission to speak your truth. There is a great communication worksheet on our website which can guide you through having mutually validating conversations.
Remember to refrain from judgment and don’t speak down to the other parent as if you know more or better. Speak to them as an equal and you will receive the same respect you are giving them back and you can hopefully come to a mutual solution.
Begin the conversation with a permission questions like, “Hey, would you be open to talking with me about how the children are playing? I’m a little concerned with something I see is happening.”
If you receive a "no" then you know it’s either not a good time or that the parents are not open to feedback or a mutual solution. This will then help you to make the decisions that are healthiest for your children. Receiving feedback without being prepared is often hard to take, so asking permission ensure you create the best environment possible for the conversation.
When you speak your truth try to use more "I" statements than "you" statements. “I have noticed that when our children play your son has a need to consistently have his way and is not open to compromise. I find that my child is not being heard or having a turn, which I don’t feel is healthy for him. I wonder if you would be open to us as parents doing our best to get involved, to ensure all the children are getting a chance to share their ideas and choose a game, as this is really the healthiest way for them to learn to play and get along. Would you be open to helping me with this?”
Learning to have these boundary conversations is challenging, but this healthy dialogue really does make for lasting relationships. You may need to have a few conversations with your child about speaking his truth in a loving way before he has the confidence to speak up for himself, however, these are all wonderful and healthy discussions that will serve your child well in their future.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.