Some years ago a woman came to me because of her mother-in-law. She and her husband had been married for four years and had two small babies. The problem was that when her mother-in-law came for a visit, she would go through her daughter-in-law's dresser drawers and medicine cabinet.
When the woman talked with her husband about what to do, he had shrugged and said his mom was just nosy and because his wife had nothing to hide, what did it matter?
Instead of confronting the mother-in-law head on, the wife had a lock put on her bedroom door. When the mother-in-law came over on Sundays, as she often did, the wife would simply lock the door.
Recently this daughter-in-law contacted me to help her deal with one of her teenaged daughters. During the session I asked, "Whatever happened with you and your mother-in-law, who used to rummage through your drawers?" The woman was surprised I remembered. I said her story was a bit unusual. She laughed, shrugged, and said everything was fine. Over the years her mother- in-law turned out to be a big help to the family, and as far as she knew, she had stopped going through the woman's dresser drawers. In fact, she hadn't used the lock in years.
Several hours later I got a telephone call from a friend who had a question. Apparently his friend is ready to give up a job he likes because of the engineer in the next cubicle. It seems that this engineer has a rather tumultuous relationship with his wife and argues on and off with her throughout the day. This same engineer kicks his wastecan rhythmically all day long. His fights and repetitive tapping are so irritating that my friend's friend is seriously thinking about throwing in the towel.
My friend wanted to know if I had any solutions besides talking to the man, who was impossible to talk to, and going to his boss, who would think the problem petty.
I said I thought the friend had gotten himself sensitized to the man's noises and he was attending to them instead of ignoring them. What he could do was to decide to focus on his work and learn to ignore the man in the next cubicle. It would take about six weeks of determined concentration, but it was possible.
Another option was for him to buy a white noise machine or humming fan which would help dull the racket. A third option would be to get earbuds and start listening to music as he worked.
My friend thanked me for the advice and said he'd pass it on.
The session with the woman followed by my friend's telephone call got me to thinking. There are so many nuisance problems that come into our lives. Instead of making a big deal out of a problem and rushing to confront someone, often an adjustment in our own behavior would solve the problem.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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