A danger in maintaining a site such as this is it can be too easy to think we have nothing but good days and positive interactions. Of course, the truth is, if we did, we’d not have a site like this as these indeed are our own experiences, how we’ve come to deal with them, and what we’ve learned from them. Perhaps the biggest thing we have learned is whenever another person, any other person, enters your personal space, you can choose to be welcoming or not, warm or cool, open or withdrawn. It is your choice how you act. But it is not your choice how the other person, any other person, reacts to you. Their responses are as much out of your control as the weather.
This week we get to experience the first brush with a new season. After a long, hot, and often hotter than usual summer, the days are noticeably shorter, and the nights are becoming cooler. Changes neither of us are appreciating. But shortly the cooler days will be accompanied by the annual color riot that is North America’s fall foliage season and our respective kitchens will hold the aroma of apple soups and pumpkin pies, proof that change becomes more tolerable with familiarity, eventually supplanting the status quo while awaiting yet another of the familiar seasonal transition periods.
For all the highs and lows each season brings, that they continual evolve may be seasons’ greatest attractions. The hottest days of summer eventually give way to more temperate, comfortable periods. Autumn chilly rains moderate to a more predictable and less wet snow. Winter blizzards warm to merely brisk mornings. Spring’s bluster turns to bright, calm, warming, sunny summer days. All this is done without our permission, without us even being asked for an opinion. It is nature’s choice how it acts with no regard to what our reaction may be. Yet we carry on from season to season, if not accepting the changes, at least learning to adjust and minimize the unwanted effects while relishing in their more pleasant characteristics.
We wonder, can the same hands-off attitude make for more comfortable interactions when we are faced with some of the less pleasant opportunities life seems to find for us? The short answer, the long answer, the only answer is no! Unlike the weather, people, even those who may on the surface seem otherwise, have feelings. It may seem an autocratic boss has no time to consider alternate paths for department operations, but a thoughtful, feeling, considerate approach may uncover the human part hiding under his or her business suit. Parents, children, spouses, partners, and friends all deserve hands-on attention even when interactions with them test your patience, for surely those interactions test theirs also. The “silent treatment” leading to an internal and emotional “ah ha moment” and full reconciliation works well in older television scripted sitcoms but is not quite so successful in the impromptu world of real life.
As noted, you always can choose how you address your situations. Warm or cool, open or withdrawn, welcoming or standoffish are your choices. Unlike the weather, your situation partner has the same options. As hesitant as you may be, the best way to deal with bad days and unpleasant interactions is to open up about them. Communication and understanding are two of the most important tools needed to build successful and sustaining interpersonal relationships. We cannot wait for a chilly connection to warm on its own like we can wait as a cool morning warms with the coming of the noontime sun. People need and deserve the emotional support of others to enkindle their love for each other, whichever form of the seven loves that takes. The support may be words of explanation, acceptance, discussion, or connection. Words spoken from the heart can thaw the iciest of hearts and warm the coolest exchange.
When we wrote of the seven forms of love we said, “We relish, in fact we need to be with and interact with other humans. … Love is a source of motivation and strength for us as individuals. All types of love can induce the release of dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine, the so-called ‘feel-good chemicals.’ But to affect that release, a relationship with a specific other person must be realized.” To realize that positive relationship you must interact with the other person. Sitting around waiting for the weather to improve is perfectly acceptable. Sitting around waiting for a bad day or an unpleasant situation to get better is like complaining about the weather. It might make you feel better for a short time, but in the end, you still will be out in the cold and left feeling uncomfortable.
Indeed, it is your choice how you react to the moments and days as they come to you and the situations those days bring. But it is not your choice how the other person interacting with you reacts to you. Their responses are as much out of your control as the weather. But with warmth and understanding, communication and acceptance, unlike the weather, you can change the course of those interactions and let the sun shine on!