What to accept – and what to resist
(Time to read: ~ 3 minutes)
It’s important to choose your battles, because you don’t have enough time and energy to change everything you want to be different.
But it’s also important to know what you do have the power to change. And to use your influence to make the world a better place – for yourself and for others.
So how can you tell what to accept and what to change?
What to Accept
The First Thing
The first thing it’s important to accept is how you feel.
Feelings aren’t always comfortable. In fact they can be very uncomfortable – and you may wish they’d just go away.
But getting mad at how you feel is like getting mad at your watch for telling you what time it is.
Your feelings are just the messenger.
They bring you important information about whether a situation is working for you, or whether you need to change something.
The Second Thing to Accept
The second thing it’s important to accept is what’s important to you. In NVC we call these needs. In other places people talk about values.
They are the intangibles that form the “why” behind your feelings – the message they have to share.
It takes skill and practice to learn to identify your intangible needs or values – and to separate them from how you would like those needs met. In NVC we call those “hows” strategies or requests.
For example, in the movie “Kinky Boots” (which is based on a true story), the owner of a shoe factory dies and his son Charlie discovers that the factory has continued making hundreds and hundreds of pairs of shoes that no one wants to buy.
Charlie wants to support the staff who have worked for the factory for such a long time – that’s one of his key needs. But he initially doesn’t see a strategy for achieving that.
It takes the suggestion of one of the staff, Lauren, to look for a niche market – combined with Charlie’s chance encounter with cabaret performer and drag queen, Lola – to help Charlie discover a different possible strategy to meet his needs.
What else can “Kinky Boots” teach us?
The shoe factory is located in a conservative part of England. When Lola arrives to try and help Charlie save the company, some key workers are uncomfortable, want Lola to leave, and generally make his / her life miserable.
Lola’s landlady, Mrs. Cobb, is a stooped grey-haired woman with a very traditional perm. She accepted Lola into her house as a woman.
One morning Lola is asleep in bed when Mrs. Cobb knocks on the door to bring in a cup of tea. Lola jumps up, sits down at the dressing table and quickly throws on a long female wig. But his unshaven beard stubble is clearly in evidence.
Unsmiling, Mrs. Cobb looks down into his face and asks bluntly “Are you a man?”
You can see the fear in Lola’s eyes. What will happen if he tells the truth? Will she insult him too? Throw him out of her house maybe?
He looks up. “I am, love, yes.”
Mrs. Cobb nods. “Ah, that’s fine. Just so’s I know how to leave the toilet seat…”
It’s my favourite scene in the movie.
The Third Thing to Accept
For me, this is a delicious example of the third thing that’s important to accept – the facts. What NVC calls observations.
Accept what is physically, observably true – in this case, that Lola is a man.
What to Resist and Change
The most important thing to resist and change are the unhelpful stories that you tell yourself about the facts.
- If you’re a parent and you don’t currently have a good relationship with one of your children, resist the story that you’re a terrible parent – or they’re a bad kid.
- If you’re a business owner who’s not currently making enough to cover expenses, resist the story that you’re a failure and your business is doomed – or that the big guys rule the world and there’s no space for small businesses like yours.
- If you don’t have a good relationship with your boss or your colleagues, resist the story that there’s something wrong with them, or with you, or that there’s nothing you can do.
How can you tell the difference between a fact and a story?
This can be trickier than you might think.
- When you genuinely accept a fact – even an unpleasant fact like not having enough money to cover expenses this month – you feel a sense of relief.
Because you’ve stopped fighting reality and that feels good. Even if you are also sad about what the facts are.
- When you accept or believe an unhelpful story, you feel depressed, helpless or angry. Because you’re telling yourself that there’s nothing you can do. And that is a lie.
As Victor Frankl wrote: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
As a concentration camp survivor, he knew a lot about forces beyond his control.
Accept your feelings, your needs and the facts, however unpleasant.
Recognize, resist and change your unhelpful stories.
Discover your power of choice in the situation. It is always far greater than it initially appears.
If you’d like help with any of this, for a particular situation in your life, click here to book a free consultation – to see if what I offer is what you’re looking for.