For lack of a better word, I am a curmudgeon. Nothing ever really seems to impress me and I have been accused of being a cold and callous individual in the past. While I get along with most people, I can come off to others as short-tempered, impatient and obnoxious at times. When I’m tired these attributes tend become much worse. I don’t mean to come off this way, and sometimes I don’t even recognize it until someone points it out. And it’s been pointed out often enough that it’s obviously something I need to work on. I don’t like to walk on eggshells, nor do I like to be the cause of someone else doing the same around me. I know I can’t determine how another person will perceive my words and actions, but I can certainly control how I act toward others. What I want to know is – where do I start?
Even though people are pointing out your undesirable traits, I’d like to begin my response by pointing out one hopeful observation. The very fact that you’re wondering how to improve your relationships shows me that you’re probably not as cold and callous as you might believe. Your desire to relate to others means you care. And if you care, you can change.
I see two things going on here. First, you have a critical eye and question everything. Second, this critical eye has translated into behaviors and ways of relating to others that creates distance in your relationships. While I don’t know how much you’ll change your critical nature, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your mood and protect your relationships with others.
I’ll just say one thing about your critical nature and then I’ll discuss how to improve your mood and relationships. The world needs people like you. It’s too easy to get swept up in rhetoric and emotion. Folks like you are usually the ones who will stand up and say, “wait a minute,” and then ask important questions. You don’t have to change this part of you to relate to others. I can see, however, where this gets in the way of you building good relationships.
I recommend you take care of your physical self by getting proper rest, diet, and exercise. You can instantly improve your mood when these three areas are in check. You mentioned your awareness of how being tired impacts your mood. Take that feedback and pay attention to it. It’s a signal you won’t want to ignore.
Improving our relationships with others takes humility, courage, and practice. It’s hard to see our own blind spots at times, so I encourage you to do some reading to learn more about relationships and find someone you can discuss these things with. Here are a few books you might find helpful as you work to better understand your personality and relationships:
“Authentic Happiness,” by Martin Seligman
“Daring Greatly,” by Brene Brown
“Living Like You Mean It,” by Ronald Frederick
“It’s Just My Nature,” by Carol Tuttle
Be patient with yourself and continue to protect the relationships that are important to you by asking for feedback. Most of what drives us crazy about ourselves will never fully be resolved. Instead, focus on what you can change as you try to be more aware, respectful, and compassionate with others.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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