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  • Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

How often do you feel compromised by compromise?

It is easy to get hooked like velcro to an idea of how things should go... particularly when it comes to what others should do to make things work according to our view of the world.

I want you to throw a big party for your milestone birthday. I'll help plan it!

"You should celebrate your birthday big time because that's how birthdays are celebrated in our family."

I grew up in a family where drinking too much was de rigueur - I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

"You should stop drinking; your behavior is regrettable and makes me uncomfortable."

I have never felt secure financially - is there ever enough money to do what needs to be done?

"You should read financial reports with more agility; that would make me feel more secure."

My parents didn't have enough to live on when they retired, and it was hard to watch.

"You should make more money, we need enough to live on in retirement."

I am super uncomfortable with conflict.

"You should stop being so negative in the workplace, it's inconvenient for me."

I am risk averse and an introvert and I wish you could respect that next time you meet people for dinner.

"You should be more COVID conservative; you are putting me at risk."

We all have a lens on our world - what we want, what we feel, what we think will be the best outcome. Many people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to control their environment and other people, in order to bring it in line with what it "should" be.

That view, however, doesn't always match up with the view of others.

" My idea of the perfect birthday is tea in bed with a good book."

"Going out for several drinks with my friends and laughing our heads off is fun for me."

"I have no interest in reading financial reports, my accountant can do that for me."

"I chose my profession knowing I would never make a ton of money, but I love love love what I do..."

"No one listens to me in the workplace and I am super frustrated. Damn right I am negative!"

"My mental health is at risk if I don't see friends - I will continue to do that and stay as safe as I can, within reason."

We assure our own itchiness over time when we create "shoulds" for others and then feel compromised when they don't do what we want.

How do we put ourselves back in the driver seat, instead of being the backseat driver?

Here are three ways to shift the discussion.

Pay attention to your own voice and motivations. Increase self-awareness so that you understand why you have created a "should" for someone else. Am I feeling unsafe? Lonely? Purposeless? How am I laying my need on the doorstep of someone else so that they can solve my problem or make me more comfortable? Consider why you are willing to give the power to meet your needs away to others.

Unhook responsibility from others and take your power back. Flip the discussion around and decide on what you are willing to do to meet your own needs. Is your financial fear a reality? Or an old trope that goes around and around unimpeded? What steps are you willing to take to determine what is real so that you can put an action plan in place? Have you met, for example, with a financial planner who can forecast income/expenses through retirement? Or does that sound scary? Why? Is your organization on solid footing financially? Are you involving important others in the discussion or are you hoarding information? What support do you need to move from never-ending worrying into a place of empowerment?

Consider "solution" based thinking. "My needs are real and so are yours. I recognize that we have different ways of doing things... what could work for both of us?" Game changer. Consider all the possibilities, expand the universe of solutions, keep your boundaries within sight, and also respect what others think and need.

"Celebrating your birthday is important to me - might we have tea together so that I can sing happy birthday to you and tell you how much I appreciate you?"

"I am understanding the roots of my discomfort around drinking, and while I don't love that you are out with friends, can we agree that you will never, ever drive when you've had too much to drink?"

" I am going to work with our accountant so that I can learn to read the financial reports myself. That will help me feel secure."

" I know you don't make a ton of money and I love the fact that you chose what you do because it gives you purpose. According to our financial projections, we don't have enough money saved for retirement. Are you willing to think out of the box with me to see what we can do?"

"I am sorry you feel unheard - let's get someone else to help us "hear" each other so that we can find a better way."

"We do see the risks of Covid differently. I am going to decide what I need to do to feel safe and then make some changes... this is such a strange time; what's most important to me is that we make it through the pandemic alive and intact as a family."

Notice how that feels... taking responsibility for meeting our own needs is not easy, but it is also a powerful opportunity to stretch and grow.

Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.


Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 



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