“Most bad behaviour comes from insecurity.”
— Debra Winger, American actress and producer
“That should do it,” I said.
“Plenty of room to park now,” replied my son, leaning on the snow shovel.
We had just spent two hours hacking, shovelling and cursing our way through a four-foot bank the snowplow had unceremoniously deposited against our side of the street.
As both my wife and I parked our vehicles in the driveway, our son was left to park his car down the street where he was unable to plug in on cold, sub-zero nights.
We went in the house, warmed up and when we headed back outside, we discovered a jacked-up, full-sized pickup truck parked firmly in our freshly cleared spot.
Frustrated, my son knocked on a few doors in the neighbourhood until he found the truck’s owner.
He lived a few houses down the street.
After a brief discussion, my son stomped back into the house.
“He said we don’t own the street and slammed the door in my face.”
We all do things that annoy people, especially in close personal relationships.
It’s nearly impossible to interact with people without having the occasional set-to.
Emotions get the best of us all but sometimes we’re the victim of someone’s inappropriate behaviour.
Such behaviour can range from anger, aggressive communication or unwanted attention to unkind words, a callous disregard for the thoughts and feelings of others or acts of physical violence.
Certain inappropriate behaviours — if not held in check — can become habitual.
We may adopt attitudes that over time become aspects of our daily interaction and personal operating system.
We may be role-modelling behaviours we learned at an early age.
Perhaps others have let us “get away” with inappropriate actions by not setting healthy boundaries.
The behaviours that we consistently present to the world are a measurement of our character.
If your current behaviour is tearing apart relationships, creating stress at work and leaving you feeling frustrated and misunderstood, it’s time to do something about it.
Let’s be clear: the issues I’m referring to here are not the ones that could put you behind bars, such as physical abuse, outright cruelty and personal endangerment.
Those issues require professional intervention and, often, long-term treatment.
I’m talking about the daily behaviours we demonstrate that slowly dissolve away mutual respect, enjoyment of life and damage our self-esteem.
Here are four of the most common inappropriate behaviours.
Temper tantrums: pouting, whining, yelling, withdrawal, belligerence and passive-aggressive conduct.
Sure, we all get our feelings hurt occasionally and sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expected or desired.
There are healthy, adult ways of expressing anger that don’t undermine our self-esteem or that of others.
Recognize anger and frustration when they arise, and work to identify the source.
Often it runs much deeper than the issue at hand. Check your expectations.
Step back from interactions until you can control your feelings and speak calmly.
Manipulation: using threats, wit, charm, coercion or other tactics to bend people to your will.
Admittedly, there are similarities between manipulation and negotiation.
Perhaps the difference lies in the intent — one being self-serving while the other (in most cases) striving to bring about mutual agreement and benefit.
Many manipulators are highly skilled and it may take months or even years for those close to a manipulator to realize that it’s happening.
Perhaps the manipulator may not even realize to what extent this destructive behaviour has become embedded in his or her life.
If you’re a manipulator, breaking the cycle will take effort and self-awareness.
It starts with embracing an honest respect for those around you.
It will take a shift in your thinking to recognize when you are about to manipulate and some soul-searching to unearth the deep, unconscious need you have to control people and get your own way.
Poor listening skills: answering cellphone calls, texting, lack of attention, forming a response before the other person has finished speaking.
Our age of distraction has led to an eroding of good listening skills.
These suggestions may help.
When you sit down to chat with someone remove any potential distractions: turn off the cellphone, switch off the TV and step away from the computer.
Make eye contact with the other person, reflect back to the speaker what you think you have heard and always acknowledge the feelings or ideas being conveyed.
Bad manners: failing to say please, thank-you and you’re welcome, interrupting, disregarding the opinions of others or always wanting to be first in line.
These simple skills were likely taught to you as a child.
Do you remember being told to say please and thank-you, not interrupt, assist others, show appreciation and be on time?
Good manners are powerful relationship and rapport-building tools.
Using them demonstrates respect for ourselves and for others.
The owner of the truck seemed to have a sense of entitlement.
Admittedly, shovelling a parking spot on a public street does not give one ownership of it, but I still think that taking the spot was inappropriate.
He also seemed to lack empathy for others.
A lack of empathy can lead to poor choices and callous disregard for the feelings and opinions of others.
My son’s solution was to dig out another spot on the other side of our driveway.
We did have a chat, however, when I realized the snow from the new spot had been used to fill in the old one.
In retrospect, clearing a spot in the garage for one of the vehicles would have been a better option and certainly more appropriate behaviour on our part.
“Knowing that we can control our own behaviour,” wrote Australian moral philosopher, Peter Singer, “makes it more likely that we will.”
Want to park your life in a better spot?
Adopt a better attitude and start clearing out the garage.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.theselfesteemguy.com