Interpersonal interactions are one of those things about which people are constantly making speculations. There are theories about why people do or don’t do certain things, why they react they way they do, and even how they might go about changing their behavior. And every person who has dealt with interpersonal conflict has ideas of how the situation may have been different if only the other person had made different choices.
But what we rarely examine is how our own choices impact situations. As a general rule, people don’t like to admit that they made a mistake or that they could have done something differently. During communication we often think of our comments and responses as reactionary—we believe that we must respond in a specific way based on what was said or done by the other person.
However, when we operate under that belief system, we miss the fact that our own behavior is one of the most important indicators of social outcomes. How we choose to approach a situation can determine its outcome. Many people may not completely agree with this viewpoint and may argue that communication and interpersonal dynamics are extremely complicated. But when looked at like an addition problem, it tends to make more sense.
Behavior + Behavior = Outcome.
If the behavior that we contribute to a situation is positive in nature (empathic, understanding, looking for compromise), then it is much more likely that we will get a positive result. Similarly, if our behavior is negative, then we will most likely receive a negative result. And when the interaction is between an adult and a child, the adult can often steer the direction of the interaction to a much greater extent that believed possible.
When interacting with children who struggle with their controlling their actions, adults who choose to be understanding and to convey support may see more positive results than if they approach those children with other mind-sets. People, children especially, want to know that they have someone they can count on, someone who will not immediately reprimand them for their poor choices. They want to know that they are being heard and that they are taken seriously. By tailoring our actions to convey those feelings we are more likely to achieve real connections with that person and can then advocate for positive change.