In my seminars, I often get questions that start with "(Fill in the Blank) is really driving me crazy..." It's hard for me to respond with a straight face anymore, when what I really want to say is, "Hey, from your mouth to God's ear..." But, being a normal human being, interested in the well being of my fellow creatures, I restrain myself.

The conversation usually continues..."(Fill in the Blank) always does (fill in the blank), and I really hate it when they do that. "How do I get them to stop it?"

Being a sucker for anybody who wants my advice, I usually offer what seems to me to be a straightforward suggestion.

"Well, have you considered telling the person?" I'll usually ask.

The response I get to that question is astonishing.

"Uh, no...I could NEVER tell (Fill in the Blank) that!"

So they don't. And the frustration continues.

Welcome to the Human Condition. Or maybe it's the Divine Comedy.

The Great Cosmic Joke is that we think that the results we have in life are of Somebody Else's making, and by golly, if we don't like those results, Somebody Else has got to pay.

The secondary punch line to the Great Cosmic Joke is that most people don't consider themselves to be very creative.

When we are frustrated, angry, confused or upset at the mismatch between our expectations and the "real world," a funny thing happens. We stop thinking creatively and all of our brain activity shifts to the less creative, more reactive "lizard-brain," which sees no option but to annihilate the frustrator. Fight or flee. Kill it or get out of its way. And we communicate from there, blindly unaware of how creative THAT state is.

Here's my take on it: as Children of the Creator, we are imbued with a tremendous capacity to create, for good or ill. We are told in no uncertain terms, in all of the holy books, some version of "In the beginning was the Word..." and "Let there be...and there was..." Those are not just inspiring telling of Divine History, but instructions on How It Works.

Or, if you're less religiously inclined, let's examine this creative phenomenon from the perspective of the laws of physics: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Let's say I'm in line at Pet Smart (I was, yesterday), and a frazzled mom asks me to let her in line in front of me. She is clearly in a hurry, and apologetic to the eyeballs, but intent on getting the heck out of there, NOW. She communicates it to me, the best way she knows how. The clerk and the woman behind me in line, both roll their eyeballs, but I say, "Sure, go ahead."

Results? She accomplishes her goal. I feel better about myself.

As an alternative, I could decline her request...saying, "By golly I waited my turn so you had better just stand there and wait yours." (To tell the truth, that's exactly what I was thinking.) If I react the way my lizard-brain is telling me to, I can create a whole set of different results: Fairness--following the rules-- would prevail, she would be put in her place, annihilated, and in the eyes of most people there in line, I would be doing the "right thing." She might get more upset, maybe taking it out on the clerk or, God forbid, her kids. I would be stuck with feeling like a jerk, even though I was "right."

Or another example: You manage somebody who, for some reason or other, is not getting things done the way they should. You don't want to "go off on" the person, but you're afraid that if you say something, it will come out all wrong. So you say nothing.

What does that create? The same lackluster performance from them, and a sense of powerlessness for you. In your frustration, you complain to everyone else about it, including your partner. Your health begins to suffer. You dread going to work tomorrow. Like magic, you create a pile of frustrating symptoms. And it sure looks like their fault.

If you could put your fear and frustration aside for long enough to think about the situation and approach the person with a specific set of intentions in mind, what results would you want?

You'd want better performance from them.

You'd want willing cooperation from them.

You would want to enhance, rather than diminish the relationship, wouldn't you?

You would certainly want to feel satisfied and complete about your interaction with the person, so that you could quit boring your spouse with it at night.

You would want to claim your right, as manager, to have the person follow your directives. In other words, you would want to feel powerful.

Given those intentions, what could you say that enhances the relationship, elicits a positive, willing response from the other person, and lets you demonstrate your authority, feel a sense of power about yourself as a manager, and get a good night's sleep without worrying about the situation?

Here's the point. You are a Child of the Creator, subject to the immutable laws of physics, and imbued with the remarkable gifts of thought and language. Everything that issues from your mouth (and everything you hold back) contributes to the creation of your life as it is right now.

My intention is to wake you up to that creativity. I can't do it by telling you what to say and how to say's your life. So maybe a more creative answer to the "what should I do" question I get in seminars might be "What do you want?"

Author's Bio: 

Speaker, trainer and author Jan Pedersen offers keynote speeches, training seminars and workshops to organizations who want to improve interpersonal effectiveness, reduce or eliminate conflict and increase results. Visit her website or subscribe to the monthly newsletter "Communication Insights" by emailing