Love, Self

The #1 Foolish Way You Destroy Your Own Happiness

what did you do?

The other day someone posted something on social media that I'm pretty sure (well, I think) was targeted at me. I called a friend and said, "Should this offend me?"

Of course, I knew the answer before it came out of my mouth—No, I shouldn't be offended by this! If you can't even decide whether or not you're offended, then don't be. If there's nothing you can do about it, you should move on, or, if it's appropriate, stand up for yourself and then move on. But here's the thing—it's awfully easy to interpret someone else's behavior as being about you and then react (negatively) to that assumption ... but why take away your own happiness?

I see examples of this everyday. People tell me they don't get along with someone at work. When I ask why, they say, "Because she isn't very friendly to me." Oh, I see. So, in other words, you've decided to make this other person's behavior all about you. And then you decided to feel upset about it. And now you don't like her in return?

Really, why don't you just pinch yourself all day long, it's slightly less miserable!
Can you catch yourself doing this? Can you ask the question, does this assumption make sense? If you aren't sure, then you are heading down a very unhappy path. 

Do your kids have you pulling your hair out?
Parents assume that their child misbehaves to annoy them. Ok, this one may actually be true periodically, but in general, children are just kind of annoying sometimes and it really doesn't have much to do with us. If we react to their behavior as it's a direct affront to us, we'll have a long and very painful parenting road. Set limits with your children but don't take their behavior personally. It only makes you more reactive and them more defensive (and your whole family a whole lot less happy).

Catch yourself reacting to your children and step back for a second. Ask yourself if your response makes sense. If not, stop. Pick a different reaction. 

Is your spouse out to get you?
Do you view your partner's every bad mood as a direct attack on you? Are you sensitive to their every shift, certain they are deliberately trying to drive you crazy? When they want some alone time do you instantly insist that they don't care about you anymore (or love you as much as you love them)? Do you really want to live in such an unhappy space with your partner? Making their behavior all about you keeps you feeling discontent and unloved. Is that really how you want to feel?

Check your assumptions at the door
Interpreting other's behavior without first verifying whether your interpretation is correct is a recipe for unhappiness, anxiety, and insecurity. If you think someone is upset with you, simply ask him or her if that is so. If they say "no", move on! If you aren't sure how someone is feeling or what their true mindset is, either ask or (I would suggest) just assume the best. Choosing to interpret people's behavior in a negative way hurts you and is harmful to your healthy relationship with them. 

Start today and watch for signs of wrong assumptions on your part. Ask yourself, "Is my interpretation of their behavior correct? How could I find out for sure before I freak out or feel sad?"

Tip: think of three other possibilities that might explain their behavior in a way that isn't all about you (i.e. they're having a bad day, they're distracted, maybe they innocently forgot). If any of those other options seem as reasonable as your initial thought, why not assume one of those? Make the choice to assume the best and feel instantly happier, have healthier relationships, and enjoy your life and others so much more. 

Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach. Visit her website or email her directly for a dose of happiness.