How do you tolerate it?

by Nancy on June 28, 2011

In the coaching work I do, I often encounter people who are dealing with very challenging circumstances. Whether it be someone in a loveless marriage or an employee coping with an abusive boss, I’m looked to for answers.

I find myself giving similar advice no matter the situation. “Don’t be a victim.” “You are ultimately in control.” Over and over again, I coach people to empower themselves to do something different than just putting up with the intolerable situation they find themselves in.

Although tolerating or putting up with a less than desirable environment is one way to respond, it isn’t usually a response that will result in peace or happiness. Matter of fact, it’s usually the source of much misery.

So what are some other responses when you find yourself in an intolerable situation and you are ready to do something different? There are three main responses and each one is within your power.

ACCEPT IT – As I just described some situations as intolerable, doesn’t it seem like a contradiction that I would now turn around and suggest that accepting them is an acceptable response?

It’s true that if we see something as intolerable, our chances of accepting it are slim. So what is required in acceptance is a dramatic shift in how we see the situation.

Since we sometimes have little control over the source of the problem (ex: another person’s behavior), all we can control is our perspective of the situation. In other words, we need to change our “story” about what is happening.

Let’s say you have a very controlling manager. She micro-manages you, calls you constantly, and checks up on everything you do. You think she doesn’t trust you to do your job and questions your competence. Every time she calls or emails you, you grit your teeth as you answer her endless questions.

This behavior of hers you have no control over. Unfortunately, this is her management style. However, her not trusting you and questioning your competence is “your story”. Unless she has specifically said this to you, it’s just your interpretation of her behavior.

So while you can’t change her behavior, you can tell yourself a different story. Perhaps in the past, she didn’t check up on her direct reports and got in trouble for it. Maybe she has always been managed like this and doesn’t know a different way. Or perhaps she has insecurity or fear around her job and this constant checking in reassures her that things are getting done.

By interpreting her behavior differently, it will help you control your frustration and you will be able to be more accepting of her behavior. If you find your attempts at changing your story are not working, it’s time to try something else…

CHANGE IT – When faced with trying circumstances, we are often quick to throw up our hands and claim there is nothing we can do. This is victim mentality at its strongest. We will come up with excuse after excuse as to why we can do nothing different.

  • I can’t disagree with my boss – he’ll fire me.
  • I can’t leave my job – I won’t be able to support my family.
  • I can’t say no to my wife – she’ll leave me.
  • I can’t tell my mother to mind her own business – she’ll disown me.

I’ve heard all of these from coaching clients. And in every situation, the worst case scenario that kept them from speaking up never happened when they finally spoke up. It’s just a convenient excuse to keep you stuck exactly where you are.

If you can’t accept it, can’t muster up the courage to change it or did everything in your power to change it to no avail, you are left with one other option…

LEAVE IT – When all else has failed, you may have to leave the situation. Sometimes this is a very difficult decision to come to especially when we are talking about a marriage or job. But sometimes there is no other option.

But one thing that makes leaving easier is when you are sure that you did everything within your power to try and accept or change the situation. This way, you can leave with a clear conscience and less of a chance of recreating the same scenario down the road.

Because one thing I have seen over and over in my life is that when we don’t handle the difficulties in our lives, when we don’t learn the lessons we need to learn, they keep coming back around.

So remember for your own happiness – accept it, change it or leave it!

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