The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for People That Are A Pleasure To Be With Or A Pain To Be With

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There are many ways to decide how you want to spend time with people. One approach is to start by clarifying the people that it is pleasurable, neutral or painful to be with. These can include people in your personal or professional life.

Some interactions may, of course, veer between being pleasurable, neutral or painful. It may or may not be possible to improve these relationships.

Let’s explore how to use the information you gather about the various people in your life.

People that are a
pleasure to be with

Looking at your personal life, who are the people you enjoy being with? These may include your loved ones, friends and kindred spirits.

What makes it enjoyable being with each of these people? Looking at a particular person, you may say:

I feel alive when I am with them … I feel at ease and able to be myself … They are positive and lift my spirits … They are reliable and trustworthy … We share similar values … We enjoy our time together – whether it is walking, playing sports or just making small talk.

How can you continue to spend time with these people? How can you encourage them? How can you share adventures together? What will be the benefits of making this happen?

Looking at your professional life, which colleagues and customers do you enjoy being with? You may, for example, find it stimulating to work with customers who have certain personality characteristics.

How can you spend more time with these customers? How can you find more customers who have similar characteristics? How can you use your strengths to help them to achieve success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people that you find it pleasurable to be with and write the names of each of these people.  

Describe the specific things that make it a pleasure to be with each of these individuals.

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to spend time with them and do your best to make it pleasurable for both them and you.

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People that are
neutral to be with

Which people do you find it neutral to be with? Sometimes you may have other emotions but, for the most part, you are not affected too much by being with these people. What can you do to make these interactions enjoyable?

Imagine that you are preparing to visit a relative with whom you have little connection. One approach is to apply some of the professional principles you follow when preparing to meet a customer.

Looking ahead, you can rehearse how you want to behave. Bearing in mind what you can and can’t control in the situation, you may ask yourself some of the following questions.

Who is the person that I am going to meet? What is happening in their world? What may be the things on the mind? What are their interests? What can I do to encourage them?

What can I do to make the meeting as enjoyable as possible? What do I want the other person to be feeling, thinking and saying afterwards? What do I want to be feeling, thinking and saying? How can I do my best to achieve these results?

How can I start the meeting in a positive way? How can I show interest in the person and their aims? What are the specific things I do and don’t want to do in the meeting? If things get difficult, how can I buy time and find solutions? How can I keep encouraging the person and myself? How can I, when appropriate, finish the meeting in a positive way?

This approach may sound over-rehearsed, but it is one taken by people who want to make the most of experiences. Preparing and rehearsing properly can, paradoxically, give them more freedom to flow.

If a person feels uncomfortable at any point, they can buy time to collect their thoughts. Some individuals choose to breathe deeply and then take the following steps. 

They relax, re-centre and recall the principles they planned to follow in the meeting. 

They focus on the real results they want to achieve and how they can do their best to achieve these results.

They translate these ideas into a clear action plan and do their best to make the meeting as enjoyable as possible.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people that you find it neutral to be with and write the names of each of these people.

Describe the specific things that make it neutral to be with each of these individuals.

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to make the interactions more pleasurable for both them and you.

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People that are
a pain to be with

Which individuals do you find it painful to be with? There may be many reasons for this feeling. A person may be negative, a dirty fighter or whatever. It can also be that you contribute to the situation.

One key point is worth bearing in mind. Whilst we may have people who discourage us, we may also allow them to have this effect.

If a person is being negative, for example, sometimes we have the option of going out of the room. We can also give them a positive alternative or do other things to stop them affecting us.

There are ways to deal with the negative energy. Radical changes may be difficult to make overnight, but let’s explore some options for going forwards.

Stop seeing the person that
you find it painful to be with

The most effective way to stop pain is to remove yourself from the situation. This is not always possible and it can take time, especially in your professional life. But the alternative is to stay and be a victim.

Why move on? Energy is life. You need positive energy, rather than poisonous energy. Two of the main reasons why people leave their jobs are, for example:

They are working for a manager who makes life difficult each day. 

They are doing work that no longer gives them a sense of fulfilment.

So they begin searching for satisfying work with a manager whom they respect.

You may consider taking similar steps in your personal life. There are many reasons why people get happier as they get older. One is that choose to spend time with people who encourage them. They cut down on the time spent with people who cause pain.

Give positive alternatives to the person
that you find it painful to be with

You can explain to the person how you would prefer them to behave in the future. This may or may not work, but it can be worth a try. You will then feel that you have done your best to build a better relationship.

Reward the positive. Give clear messages about the specific things you do like the person doing. Explain how you would like to build on these parts of the relationship.

If you feel it is appropriate, give positive alternatives to any negative behaviour. You may say something like:

“In the future, I would like you to consider doing x rather than y.”

Present suggestions, rather than label the person as bad. Don’t expect the person to respond immediately, everybody needs time to lick their wounds. Don’t argue or fall into the blame game.

What if the person refuses to respond? Then make the decision whether to stay or leave.

Be an encourager
towards the other person

Encourage other people and they are more likely to support you. Give and give, but don’t become a victim. Do not stay around people who choose to be miserable.

Finally, when in doubt, ask yourself: “Does being with this person help me to feel positive?”

If not, switch to spending time with the people – and on the activities – that provide stimulation. You may find that you feel much healthier.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people that you find it a pain to be with and write the names of each of these people.  

Describe the specific things that make it a pain to be with each individual. 

Describe the specific things you can do to make a decision about the individual or situation and then act on this decision.

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Building with the people that you
find it pleasurable to be with

Let’s return to the beginning. How can you spend more time with the people you find it pleasurable to be with? How can you continue to enjoy your times together?

One approach is to learn from healthy couples and then follow these principles in your own way. Healthy couples often base their relationships on affection, acceptance and adventure.

Affection

They show each other affection. Some may do this in a physical way. Some may do it in a psychological way.

They may show affection by making the other person feel welcome and helping them to feel the centre of their world. They may also do it in simple ways, such as making them a cup of team, listening and encouraging them.

Acceptance 

They build on the things they have in common. They also find ways to encourage and, in some cases, manage any differences. They recognise that differences can make or break a relationship.

Healthy couples, for example, accept each other rather than constantly try to change each other. They realise that, after a certain time, people do not change all that much. They are clear on:

The differences they want to encourage, because these make the other person special. 

The differences they are prepared to accept, because the person probably won’t change certain habits.

The differences they would like the person to change and how.

Regarding the latter differences, they may suggest how they would like the person to behave in the future. But what if the person refuses to change? The person making the suggestion has a decision to make.

They can recognise that the other person is not going to change and accept the difference.

They can keep trying to persuade the person to change, which may or may not work.

They can, if they feel the difference is too painful, choose to leave the relationship because there is no point in being a victim.

Let’s return to another aspect that we can learn from healthy couples.

Adventure

They share adventures together. These can be big adventures or simply enjoying conversations together. They feel uplifted after their time together.

You can apply these principles in your own way to build with the people that you enjoy being with. Taking these steps will continue to give you positive energy.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to build with the people that you find it a pleasure to be with.  

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of building with these people.

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