Behavior is a Language

If you’ve been around here for a while you know I talk about the power of therapy.

This week I had a particularly eye opening session with my therapist.

One of the things that he and I have been doing is trying to dive more into my childhood. Into finding the root of the issue of some of the things I’m working through.

This week we were talking about the behavior of people in my life from when I was younger.

How their behavior, even when no words were spoken, taught me things.

He said, “Todd, remember that behavior is a language. Sometimes the way someone is behaving speaks far more than the words would.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks.

He said, “If someone is behaving a certain way, and you truly want to work through how it’s making you feel, the first think you need to do is think about them. Think about what they could be dealing with or feeling that is making them behave that way. And it probably has nothing to do with the situation at hand.”

And of course, me with the personality I have, I had to question.

So I asked, well what if they’re being so rude/disrespectful/hurtful that I don’t want to think about that. I just don’t want to deal with the drama.

And then what he said slapped me across the face. He said, “Empathy is the biggest tool we have. When we can seek to understand someone and where they’re coming from, we can better address the situation and make better decisions. Yes there will be times you just need to walk away, but you should always start with seeking to understand.”

Then we did an exercise where he made me pretend I could be sitting with this person from my childhood and say whatever I wanted to say. I said what I wanted, and then my therapist said, “now how do you think this person would respond?”

So I told him this person would be apologetic but not really mean it. They would make excuses. But change wouldn’t happen. They would do all the things I had always seen from them.

Then he said, “now think about this person as a child. As a teenager even. Do you think they saw their life the way things are now? Do you think they regret some things? Do you think they’re trying as hard as they know how? Do you think they’re scared? They’re hurt?”

And in my frustration and mix of emotions with this person, no I had never thought of those things.

So I stopped and reflected for a minute.

It didn’t remove all my negative emotions. But it did give me pause. It did have me step back and give just a little more grace. A little more of what I would want if the shoes were on the other foot. I do NOT have to fix them, that’s not my job. My job is to focus on me, and make me the best version of myself. And in doing that I can better handle these situations.

So why do I share all this with you today? It’s not because this magically fixed everything for me and now I let everyone walk all over me while I find empathy for them. No, there are still lines that I won’t allow to be crossed.

Instead what I hope you get from this is the reminder that all behavior is a language. And sometimes the way someone is treating you is their way of sharing their hurt. Of crying out. Of just hoping someone will take a moment.

This work isn’t easy. And like me, you’ll probably get it wrong more than you get it right. But I’m trying. I want to be the man my family can be proud of and set a great example for them on how to love others.

Today I hope you seek to understand and remember it’s never your job to fix someone else. When you work on bettering you, the other issues fall into place.

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