My step-daughter from a previous marriage was a sweet young 16 year-old girl that tended to hang with the wrong crowd. She had a boyfriend that was difficult to like. But, you can’t help who you love. I couldn’t find one redeeming quality, believe me, I tried.
One hot August day in Phoenix, we had a tree fall down in our driveway. I was sweating ammunition (not bullets) trying to lift the tree with my back while tying a rope around the trunk and some poles. I needed at least one more arm. He steps over the tree with pants hanging below his backside while all this hard labor is going on and says “Hey Tom”. I wish I could write how Eeyore speaks, but how about slow and not so bright. Not one offer to help as he walks over the fallen tree one pant droopin lazy leg at a time.
Well, a few months later, the unspeakable happened. She caught him with another girl. She was devastated. I was elated, internally of course.
If you have ever had any therapy or watched Bob Newhart, you will have watched a Psychologist at work. The most aggravating and productive process is to have someone keep asking you, “How does that make you feel”? The reason “how does that make you feel” works is that you are having to articulate your thoughts, and sometimes they sound so stupid coming out of your own mouth that you realize you need to stop thinking/doing what you are doing. Telling a 16 year-old girl how to think is worthless, but having her solve her own problems is priceless. This is why I developed a technique to use with my step-daughter.
Her crying, depression and feelings of being a loser had continued way too long. I knew she was a winner in these circumstances, so I wanted her to feel like a winner. I will never forget the look on her face when we went through my line of questioning.
· Me: I want you to, as quickly as you can, rapid fire off as many positive personal qualities/traits about your mom that you would rank your mom at an 8, 9 or 10 and most other people would agree with you (that’s the key part). You have 15 seconds…GO!
· Her: She’s kind, loving, smart, funny, spontaneous, determined, caring, and a few others until her time ran out. She didn’t hesitate for one second as she rattled off her answers.
· Me: Now, Billy(her cheating ex-boyfriend)…GO!
· Her: Well, um, he’s a, hmmm, well he’s cute.
· Me: That’s not a personal quality.
· Her: He’s Funny.
· Me: What? I have never heard him say anything funny.
· Her: Well, I laugh at him cuz he says such stupid stuff.
· Me: You can’t think of any qualities that others would agree he’s an 8, 9 or 10?
· Her: Slight smile, hmmm, no I can’t.
· Me: Well do you know other 16 year-old boys that have great qualities.
· Her: Yes
· Me: So, why do you want to be with a guy that doesn’t have any?
· Her: (With a look of guarded amazement on her face) I don’t. (Let the healing begin.)
By the way, I’m very proud that she has used this process with some of her friends.
So many people that are dating don’t want to admit they are dating a loser. In the case of young people they don’t know what else is out there. Now comes my second process that illustrates this very concept.
Suppose there are 100 small rooms. In each of these rooms is a table, a chair and a bag of money on the table. Each room has a different amount of money and those amounts are completely random. No one knows what is in each bag and no one has planned this exercise to fool you in any way. There might be a billion or pennies, who knows? The good news is you get to keep what is in one of the bags.
Here is the game. You walk into the first room and count the money. If you want to keep it, you can, and you are done with the game. If you decide not to keep the money in room 1, then you go to room number 2. Once you leave a room and go to the next one, you can’t go back.
The question is, at what point do you take the money in a room and stop? What is your process to determine what is acceptable? Seems simple.
The answers I have gotten sound like this:
· If I found $100,000, I would stop.
· If I got enough to pay off my car, I would stop.
· I would stop at $250,000.
When I asked, “What is your process to determine when to stop”, the answers were based upon fixed amounts that just sounded like a lot of money to each individual. Seems like a process that will not yield the highest dollar amount. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is possible?
What if you went into 1/3rd of the rooms (33 rooms) so you have a benchmark or a perspective as to what is good and what is bad. When you get to room 34, you should accept an amount of money that is close to the top dollar amount you counted in the first 33 rooms. You now have a perspective as to what’s good.
How could you possibly know that the money in room number one was good when you haven’t seen any other rooms? Aha, how could a 16 year-old girl possibly know that the first boy she dates is good or not? How could someone hiring for a position at your company possibly know that the first person she interviews is the right person, the first house you look at, the first car you look at?
Experience, perspective and iterations all prove to be the best way to make decisions. That doesn’t mean the first house, the first employee, first boyfriend isn’t the best one for you, but it does mean that you will feel so much better about your decision if you have seen more than one.
Oh, and my step-daughter…she married a great guy that even I can list several qualities that he is an 8, 9 or 10. Let’s see, he doesn’t sound like Eeyore, I haven’t seen his underwear yet and...