When I was setting up the dominoes, the big challenge was to avoid accidentally knocking one of them down, before I was finished. I can recall countless times watching in disbelief as all of the dominoes fell, before I wanted them to, and I watched my hard work go to waste. I would then have to pick up the pieces and start all over again.
Sometimes, as I was creating the lines and patterns that I wanted the dominoes to fall in, someone else would come by and tip a domino over to start the chain reaction. It used to anger me knowing that these kids got a huge kick out of ruining my plans. (Although, I’ll admit, I did this to other kids as well!)
Negative chain reaction
The bad news is that our relationships can work in the same way. I have been in far too many occasions where my words and/or my actions set in motion a chain reaction that caused damage to a relationship.
Sometimes my actions were born of ignorance. As we’ve discussed previously, we all speak different (personality, love, emotional) languages and I didn’t realize that what I was saying to someone had an entirely different meaning to that person.
Other times my actions were like that of the husband in a commercial who, when asked by his wife if a dress made her look fat, answered, “You betcha!” He was preoccupied with something else and didn’t really listen to her, which led him to answer carelessly. You can tell by his wife’s reaction that he is in serious trouble!
In other occasions, I would be like the kid who knocked down the dominoes that I set up. I knew that what I was about to say or do was the wrong thing (even if I “convinced” myself that it wasn’t) and I did it anyway.
Positive chain reaction
The good news is that we can also cause a positive chain reaction! In this way you can keep the “good times” rolling by learning the different languages that people speak, by seeking to understand someone else’s point of view (especially when it runs counter to your own), and by making sure that the people in your life feel valued and cared for in the way that they would best receive it.
In addition, when your relationships run into trouble (as they all will from time to time), you can utilize the “law of dominoes” to start the process of positive changes that will benefit you and the people around you.
For example, maybe you’re not getting along with a co-worker, a family member, or your significant other. You feel that you are not the one to blame for whatever has happened, and although you don’t like the anger, tension and frustration that has been building, you decide that until the other person makes things “right”, (or changes) you will not be the one to “give in” (or change).
Sound familiar? As I’ve studied relationships in general, I’ve found that many relationships eventually get “stuck” on this issue of; “Why should I be the one to change?” Unfortunately, most times the other person feels the same way that you do, so you end up being stuck and going nowhere.
Tipping the first one over
If our goal is to have better relationships with people, then shouldn’t we do the things that will help us reach that goal? Just as the dominoes I set up wouldn’t start to fall until I tipped the first one over; change in relationships (and our communication within) won’t happen, until someone makes the decision to be the one to change. If change will ultimately help and benefit you, isn’t it worth it to start it? The great part about this is when the positive chain reaction starts, it will keep going!
Author and marriage counselor Michelle Weiner-Davis puts it this way, “When one (person) changes, the other (person) changes too. It's a law of relationships. If you aren't getting what you need or want from your loved one, instead of trying to convince him or her to change, why not change your approach to the situation? Why not be more pragmatic? If what you're doing (talking to [the person] about the error of his/her ways) hasn't been working, no matter how sterling your logic, you're not going to get very far. Be more flexible and creative. Be more strategic. Spend more time trying to figure out what might work as opposed to being bent on driving your point home. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Look, life is short. We only have one go-around. Make your relationship(s) the best it (they) can possibly be. Stop waiting for your partner to change in order for things to be better. When you decide to change first, it will be the beginning of a solution avalanche. Try it, you'll like it!”
Until next time, thanks for reading!