And The Trash Can Wasn’t Empty…What Has That To Do With NLP?
Well, every now and then one hears a good story which becomes a great lesson in understanding of why life is the way it is. The following story seems to be one of those. And the most interesting thing is that something as simple as this day-by-day living example has everything to do with NLP.
The other day, arriving home in the lunch break from the NLP course we were teaching, I heard my neighbors debate the issue of trash collection. Usually in our area the trash collection happens every Tuesday morning. This time it was already Tuesday lunch time, and the trash has not been picked up.
In front of the house, our neighbor Mary was very nervously having a discussion over the phone with her partner, Josh. She was complaining that it is already noon and the trash should have been picked up. She had to leave for the afternoon, he wasn’t due home until late afternoon and it was a very windy day. She was afraid that the trash container will end up blown by the wind who-knows-where. She thought it would be empty, but it wasn’t and now she was really upset.
No Really, What’s The Problem?
But that wasn’t the real problem. The problem I could not help but overhearing while parking the car was “Why don’t these people do their job properly? They were supposed to come in the morning! Don’t they realize that people count on that? Nobody does their job well nowadays! You can’t count on anybody! The world is full of broken promises!”
What I could make up from the conversation was that her partner was trying to calm and reassure her that the container will be just fine. She kept insisting that once the wind will blow it away, it will be almost impossible to find and then they will have to purchase a new one and she did not want to spend the money now on buying a new one because the rates at the house mortgage went up and they will not be able to save enough money for the vacation they promised to their son.
I said to myself well, this is surely interesting. The trash container was not empty and this is why my neighbor cannot take their son to the promised vacation…Hmmmm…this does not really add up.
But then I got it!
We make assumptions based on our beliefs and decisions and our personal “shoulds” in life. Mary’s assumption was that at the exact hour, every week, the trash collection “should” happen because (and here, folks, we have one of the biggest problems in our language!)otherwise the world is full of broken promises. So in Mary’s set of rules, if something that was supposed to happen didn’t happen exactly at the time it as supposed to happen, it meant a broken promise.
Do you notice the equal (=) sign in my previous sentence? The word “meant” works like an equal sign. Something didn’t happen exactly as she was expecting it to happen and that equals a broken promise.
Well, that’s not entirely true for everybody now, is it? However for Mary, it was part of her set of “shoulds”.
What Is A “Should”?
Before we go any further, let’s talk a little about what are these “shoulds”. When you hear words like should, must, ought to, had better, have to and the like, what you’re listening to are the rules in that person’s life.
All good so far.
But those rules are not always conscious and moreover they are not always ours. We have adopted many of them first from our parents, as little children as we grew up, then from the school, neighbors, friends and so on.
Nothing wrong with that either.
But once we adopt certain rules and they become ours, we make up expectations based on our rules. And since very rarely the world around us is as it “should”, and even more rarely conforms to our desires and wishes (our rules), we end up frustrated and sometimes even disappointed.
We all have our own “shoulds”. How a man should be; how a woman should be; how your boss should behave with you; how your mother should have been – oh this is an even better one! How they should have been! So now we have our own rules but applied to the past and to other people!
In NLP trainings we have a good question for this. It is “according to whom?”, and is part of the language section called Meta-Model. Don’t get nervous! NLP is full of jargon. It is the destiny of every field to have its own jargon. Not as bad as the corporate world, but somewhere close!
Yes. Should have been this way or that way – but according to whom? Across the board, you have different cultures, different communities, different religious backgrounds, different generations, and although we have general rules for societally acceptable behavior, our individual “shoulds” differ as much as we do compared to each other.
Just knowing this makes you think twice before rushing to judge that your own rules should be – there we go again folks – are everybody else’s. If it doesn’t often solve the problems at hand, at least this attitude allows you to be more tolerant and save yourself quite a bit of negative emotions.
Until next time, be well.