The 4 C's Of Social Situations
Becoming Your Own Ally
Philip S. Graffunder, LCSW
Conceptualization – See the adult part of yourself, (your wiser self, or your higher Self) as a helper or mentor for the younger part of self that is feeling the anxiety. You might see your adult part as the caring big brother or sister to the part of you that is feeling anxious. Try it. Remind yourself of your values (e.g., honesty, courage, not demanding control over things that are not yours to control, etc.). If you don’t have a list of values in your mind ready for quick access, it can be a very good idea to create one. Maybe even right now.
Cognitions – Use your mind to form images and thoughts of truth that are helpful statements. This means internal self-talk that is more accurate than fear thoughts, and self-coaching statements that say encouraging, non-judgmental things to yourself. You can also use your imagination (which Einstein said was the force behind 99% of his success) to call in and focus on love and light – in, around, and flowing through you, working for the good of all. Knowing and reviewing truth statements is very helpful prior to engaging in situations that induce some form of anxiety. These statements, or ‘knowings’, things that you just know are true deep down in your soul. Creating a base set of truth and wisdom within you that you can call upon at any time to help you in situations such as these is quite helpful. (This is something we can do together in session.)
Change behavior and expectations
Change behavior and expectations – Choose to engage the situation rather than being forced into it. Is this a worthwhile, necessary, or important conversation? If so, then engage in it because it is so, letting your values and principles undergird your behavior during the interaction. In addition, you can use your imagination to rehearse, letting yourself feel and behave “as-if”, (e.g., as-if I am at ease, as-if I feel peaceful, as-if goodwill is emanating from me to you and you to me, etc). Give yourself permission to experiment here, to be curious and to learn, without demanding perfection or insisting on a specific result from the other person. Future results (including others’ behavior) are not ours to dominate or control, but we do get to have a say in how things unfold and we can influence (not micromanage or rigidly control) our future. This much is our right.
Compatibility – Allow yourself to be OK with being more or less compatible with anyone. People can be anywhere from “not compatible” to “super compatible”, which is undoubtedly how things are. Make it ok for things to be how they are because in an argument with reality, reality always wins. No matter the person that we are engaged with at the moment, the maxim, “It is much more important that I like me than that you like me” holds true, as does its complement, “It is much more important that I like me (and that you like you) than that we like each other.” We can like ourselves (or grow in our ability to do so) even if we don’t like each other, even if we are not very compatible. Even though it may not be what you want, give yourself permission to accept that low compatibility, and compatibility levels that may change over time is a fact of life, and it is OK for life to be as it is. In this way we get the numerous benefits of engaging with life on life’s terms, rather than the frustration of trying to make life and other people conform to terms that we made up that do not respect reality, such as telling life and the world what “should” be that isn’t, or “should not” be that indubitably is.
Useful tips for before and after the encounter:
Try not to let yourself be the dreaded “Over-involved Baseball Parent”. You know the one. You have seen this movie before. This is the parent of a child who has just struck out 22 of 27 batters in a game easily won, but who still berates the child all the way home in the car for not striking out the other five too. Give yourself credit for effort, for participating, for learning, for anything you tried that was new, for being courageous. Give credit and appreciation where it’s due. There is no denying that there is always room to grow, but it is valuable to take in the positive aspects by focusing your mind on it. What we think about is where our energy goes. To help with focusing your mind and energy, I suggest that you think through and write about the following, both before and after an important encounter:
The 4 C's Of Social Situations - Becoming Your Own Ally
• What am I grateful for, or do I appreciate about the event, activity, or the people there?
• What is good about it occurring, and why is it important to me and/or to us?
• What good can I, or did I, do or bring to the situation? (No matter how small or large it may be.)
• What do I have a chance of getting better at here? What did I learn?
After you have written out your answers, allow yourself to pause, and take in the good that you are contemplating, that occurred, and/or that you contributed… Breathe easy for a few minutes as you let yourself focus on your answers. This is the opposite of being the critical Baseball Parent. Really feel it, let it soak in and keep moving forward.
If you would like to explore this further,
and perhaps discover other answers about yourself, feel free to contact me at 404-295-4852.
Philip S. Graffunder is the owner of
Positive Social Growth Counseling and Therapy Center.
He is a therapist, counselor, and clinical social worker with more than 20 years’ experience.