Marcella sat in her office, wondering how to respond to a co-worker who was gently pressuring her to date him. Her thoughts tumbled over each other. “I like this man. Our working relationship is good. I don’t want to get involved with him. I don’t want to wound his ego, and I don’t want to put a strain on our working relationship. If I say the wrong thing I know I’m in trouble. If I hurt his feelings, that’ll be the end of everything.”She felt increasingly agitated.

Marcella grew up in a family where she learned to believe that she had the power to make another person feel good or feel bad. Her parents frequently told her, “You hurt my feelings, you make me so mad, you’re driving me crazy.” She learned to be especially careful about everything she thought or said in order to avoid “causing” others to feel bad. This common but false belief was paralyzing her.

Although we each have instant feeling responses to what others say or do, we can learn to choose whether to dwell on or let go of those feelings. We can think about our first response and modify it. We may choose to feel hurt by the words and actions of others or to respond in another way. Others may create the situations that we react to but we each ultimately create our own responses.

Reminding herself that she had learned how to change her feelings by changing her physiological state, Marcella began to breathe deeply. After she calmed herself, she called a friend from a communications class.

Together they decided she could approach her co-worker as if he too were a responsible person and in charge of his own feelings. She also decided to be sure to communicate carefully about her own feelings and avoid provocative, blaming statements such as “If it weren’t for what you did…”

She finally told her co-worker, “I like you a lot and I don’t want anything to get in the way of the good working relationship we have. I’d prefer that we see each other only during business hours.” To Marcella’s enormous relief, he responded by accepting the boundaries she set and they continued working together.

[tags]self-improvement, personal growth, self-help, emotional problems, relationship, sex, workplace relationships[/tags]