You Can’t Change how people act, but you can change how you react

This morning I was out by the river at South Hatton and I was thinking of a story I read before bed (if you want to read it you can find it in this book – Being Ok Just Isn’t Enough).

A couple spent each morning meditating and during their meditation, their neighbor’s carpool driver showed up and honked his horn. It annoyed the husband and so he said to his wife, “I wish that guy’s tires would fall off.” His wife reminded him that wasn’t so nice to say so later that day he changed it to, “Well I wish his horn wouldn’t work when he was near our house.” And then later that night, before they went to bed, he remarked, “Actually honey, what I really wish is that I meditated so deeply and so well that I never noticed that the horn was honking.”

It reminded me of what I’ve told so many people and constantly try to remember myself. You can’t typically change how people act but you can change how you react to them. You can spend your life frustrated with people — your spouse, your friends, your coworkers or politicians. Being frustrated with them won’t change them. But you can feel better and make a different in YOUR life, if you change how you react to them.

This is the video I posted while on the subject while I watched the sun come up this morning.

This subject comes up a lot in marriage. The wife wonders why her husband is watching TV when there is a full sink of dishes that she thinks he should notice she is busy cleaning. The husband is just enjoying his show. So the wife has two choices — she can continue to be angry and wash dishes or she can do what most men really want – just say what you need so he knows. (How many times have you heard a man say… “I’m not a mind reader.”) How she reacts makes all the difference to their evening.

Being angry won’t change his behavior or her feeling like he doesn’t care. Saying, “hey honey, do you mind helping me with these dishes?” does change his behavior and makes for a better evening for them both. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a bit and see it from their perspective — the man honking his horn just wants to to notify your neighbor he is there, the husband is just enjoying his show and doesn’t mind helping — he just needs to know you need it.

One response to “You Can’t Change how people act, but you can change how you react”

  1. I absolutely loved your story. I’m going to use that when my frustration level gets high when dealing with my boss next week. Thank you for that tip! You are absolutely correct, I need to readjust my thought process.


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