Have you ever been put in the “dog house” without fair notice? Do you find that your housemates, friends, or team members are mad at you for not doing something that either was not on your radar screen or was not as urgent as they seemed to think it was?
My friend Gail was raised by both of her parents. Her father had been in the military and he continued to run a tight ship. In fact, her mother handed off the housekeeping to her husband because he was so hard to please. Gail recalls having returned home from school and athletic practice only to have her dad lecture her about helping out more often with the vacuuming. Gail would have gladly put down her books and done the vacuuming to get him off her back but she couldn’t do that. Do you know why? Because he had already vacuumed the entire house. She was in the “dog house” with no obvious way of making amends to her dad.
Do you, like Gail, find yourself feeling bad about situations that are too late to fix? If so, you could try having this conversation with those people:
What to Say:
I really care about you and I want to please you. I feel sad when I know I’ve let you down and there is nothing I can do about it in the moment. I’d like to ask a favor of you. Would you please give me a “heads up” if there is something you really need me to do before you take care of it? I promise not to get mad about any gentle reminders you’ll give me.
Why This Works:
My husband of 20 years and I made this agreement some time ago. We take it a step further and agree that if one of us chooses to bail out the other on a task, we must be able to do so happily. This gives us a gift: If I see that he has done something I know I was supposed to have done, I don’t feel fear. I feel happy, knowing that he willingly did it for me.
As an aside, let me offer a moment of silent support for my husband and others who live with counselors. It can’t be easy to live with someone who “does communication” for a living.
What Doesn’t Work:
Carrying the load for others and then sulking about it. Living (or working) with angry people is NO FUN. Either be a cheerful assistant or talk about the problem while it can still be resolved. Those who are closest to you will appreciate you for being “user friendly.”
What situations land you in the “dog house”?
What do you need more help with?
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