Do you have the same old arguments with your partner, family members and/or friends? Do you sometimes feel stuck or like a broken record? You can change that if you want.
Asking yourself good questions can help break old patterns and create new more productive and positive behaviours. As a dementia care advocate and blogger, I discovered that asking questions is a great way to understand the often misunderstood behaviour of people who live with dementia. Likewise, reflective questions can help each of us understand, and if we want to, change our own behaviour in challenging situations and relationships.
One of the best books I’ve read (and reread and reread) is The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. It’s full of wisdom that has helped me transform myself and various relationships I’ve had with others over the last thirty years.
Here are twenty questions, some of which are drawn directly from The Dance of Anger that have helped me to cultivate awareness, gain clarity, and create change, and which I hope will also be useful to you (use them in the heat of the moment, or as tools of enquiry after the fact):
- What am I feeling right now? Is it anger, fear, anxiety, frustration or something else?
- What am I really angry (fearful, anxious, frustrated) about?
- What is the problem, and whose problem is it?
- How can I sort out who is responsible for what?
- How can I learn to express my anger (fear, anxiety, frustration) in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and/or powerless?
- When I’m angry (fearful, anxious, frustrated), how can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive?
- When I’m angry (fearful, anxious, frustrated), how can I clearly communicate my position without attacking?
- What risks and losses might I face if I become clearer and more assertive?
- What gains and benefits might I realize if I become clearer and more assertive?
- Does this same kind of situation replay itself often in my life? Is it a pattern of behaviour?
- If getting angry (fearful, anxious, frustrated) is not working for me, what can I do differently?
- What about the situation makes me angry (fearful, anxious, frustrated)?
- What is the real issue here? Is it what it appears to be on the surface or is it actually something different?
- What do I think and feel about this?
- What do I want the outcome of this situation to be?
- Who is responsible for what?
- What, specifically, do I want to change in my own behaviour?
- What are the things I will and will not do?
- What is acceptable to me?
- What is not acceptable to me?