by Jayne Johnson
Over the years I have had the good fortune to meet a multitude of wonderful people. In seminars and in my own practice, workshops and travels, there is a question that I have been asked frequently:
How can I get my mate to participate and be involved in the endeavors I am interested in?
[For the sake of simplicity, I will continue using the term “mate,” but any person – wife, husband, business partner, child, friend, etc. – could be used, as well]
The “endeavors” to which they refer when they ask these questions of me most often pertain to education, understanding life, personal growth, financial education, and similar topics.
The question, the passionate interest, comes from people who are on a path of growing and learning; people who are committed to expanding their contexts but have been experiencing a lack of interest and/or participation from one or more people in their lives whom they love and cherish.
As I listen to these questions, I can feel the frustration and the hurt. These are people who are tremendously excited and enthused about the new information they are learning, and they want to go beyond just learning it – they want to apply it, put it to work, manifest it in their lives, so they can reap the rewards; moreover, they want to share the process of planting the seeds and reaping the harvest with their mates. These are people who know the value of team and want to share their joy with the person(s) closest to them.
Unfortunately, it can happen that their invitations are refused, and in many cases, the refusals are vehement and filled with anger and resentment. The person being invited to participate feels that they are being hounded about it. In some cases they feel not so much “invited” as being told they must. They feel demands have been made on them, and that they absolutely have to participate or they will lose their relationship. The more they are asked or told, the more they dig in their heels – which is understandable – no one likes to feel pressured to be a certain way or do a certain thing.
One can see both sides of it. On one side is a person brimming with enthusiasm and raring to make things happen. On the other side is a person who either doesn’t have a natural or inherent interest in the area, or who may have an interest but also feels apprehensive, or feels like the gung-ho person is moving too fast for them. Either way, the person can feel threatened by the persistent requests to become involved. It’s a tough situation, where both people can feel confused and hurt.
I think people ask me about this with such desperation in their eyes because they have tried everything they can think of to get their loved one(s) on the bandwagon. Having tried everything, they are then looking for a magic answer.
To me, the “magic answer” involves two main steps:
- Keep doing what you’re doing –
- Let the other person BE –
The temptation to try and go back to where you were can be alluring, if you fear alienating someone or losing them altogether. It’s a very poor “solution” but some people do try and go back. It will likely lead to discouragement, a loss of one’s passion, and a sense of hopelessness, so beware of that trap and continue with your evolution.
By that I mean, give them space. If you have been doing anything that they might construe as hounding, demanding or pressuring, stop; instead, encircle them in love and understanding, compassion and acceptance for who they are and where they are on their own journey, bearing no air of arrogance or condescension but simply an acceptance of who another person is and their right to be who they are and to be honored for who they are.
One thing I know for sure is that a person who feels pressured, a person who feels there is only one answer they are allowed to give (“yes, I will participate with you”) – that is a person who feels deprived of the right to freely choose on his or her own. To allow for only one answer, one option, is essentially like putting someone in a mind-prison. There’s no way out except to surrender and accede to the demand, but it is painful because the person feels trapped and forced to comply.
Most people are fully aware of this magic answer – to let another person be. The problem is that it can then lead to their next question, the real fear underneath it all, the fear that drives the persistent asking, hounding or talking about it: “But what if we grow apart?”
And the person who is not interested? They have the same fear, and that gives them a terrible problem too: “I love this person and don’t want to lose them, but I’m just not interested right now,” or, “I’m interested but the fear is overwhelming.” Where can they go with that?
If the person accedes to the demand, resentment is a likely possibility, yet a refusal gets them more hounding. It’s truly a lose/lose situation, unless someone steps up to the plate and takes responsibility for both sides.
By “taking responsibility for both sides,” I basically mean that one of the two people – ideally both, of course – but at least one of the two – consciously chooses to let the other person be who they are, doing what they’re doing, or not doing what they’re not doing.
To me, this is the challenge, the goal to which to aspire, in all areas of life. To just let another person be. We know it works. It is a win/win context.
The key to letting another person be is to not feel righteous about one’s point of view; to not be attached to “being right,” i.e., the “I am right/you are wrong” attitude. A more helpful point of view would be, “I am right/you are right. In my world, I am right. In your world, you are right.” Even a hint of this kind of context will at least increase the harmony between two people, and a good strong dose of it can heal relationships and solve problems.
Yet, sometimes people do part ways because they have grown apart. We’ve seen it happen, and perhaps it actually has happened to some of us. At those junctures in life, I believe that ultimately we must be true to ourselves and our own integrity. It’s not necessarily easy to do, but I think it is the correct thing to do.
Act in accordance with your own integrity and allow the other person to act in accordance with his or her own integrity. Then you are both being who you are, adhering to your own principles and truths.