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Live Happier Tip: The Three Reasons Theory

Today I am sharing one of my favorite live happier tips! It doesn’t come from any books or professors–it comes from my mom. It was a piece of advice that she gave to me when I was in high school that I frequently use with myself and with my clients.

Her wise advice was: when someone does something that hurts your feelings think of 3 reasons why they might be doing that behavior that have nothing to do with you. For example, someone doesn’t return your phone call right away–our first response might be they are angry at me, or they don’t want to talk to me. But it could be 1. they are busy 2. they are having a bad day and don’t want to talk to anyone 3. they didn’t get your message.

The cool thing about this trick is that it immediately takes the focus away from our ego. It is a human tendency to either make everything about us or to sit in judgment of the other person. So by coming up with the 3 reasons we allow our mind to be open to other possibilities for the behavior.

My favorite story that illustrates this point is: A father is on the subway, and his children are running around screaming and yelling, and he is doing nothing. The man sitting next to the father is annoyed–how can he just let his kids run around like monkeys? Why isn’t he disciplining them? He must be a bad parent. Finally, the father turns to the guy next to him and says “We just left the hospital–their mother just died and I don’t think they know how to handle it. I don’t know how I am going to handle it” And immediately the guy next to him has compassion. His first response was judgment–it never occurred to him to think of other possible explanations than the fact that the father was just a bad dad.

Try it and see-I guarantee it will change your first response and help you look at things a little differently, therefore, decreasing hurt feelings and arguments–and who doesn’t want to do that?!?!

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