Do you ever find yourself going along with something even though your heart is not in it? Are you agreeing to things just to keep the peace? Are you not speaking up for yourself for fear of criticism or backlash?
Too often when we take the path of least resistance, it doesn’t actually serve us well in the long run. When we take the time to truly understand what our resistance is trying to tell us, we gain invaluable information about ourselves. Armed with this personal awareness, we can make better choices and communicate honestly with others without an emotion overload.
The path of least resistance comes in many forms such as procrastination, inaction, avoidance, and acquiescing. We might be trying to avoid fear, rejection, a needless argument or criticism.
Sometimes we find ourselves choosing the path of least resistance with someone believing that if we just go along, they will be happy and peace will be restored. If it’s not a big deal and we aren’t stuffing uneasy feelings to restore peace, that’s probably ok. However when we find ourselves frequently in the same uncomfortable pattern, it’s time to pay attention.
That resistance you feel is chock full of valuable information. Take time to reflect on the situation and be honest with yourself about how YOU are really feeling. Just as importantly, get clear about your own needs and values.
My discovery was realizing that when I took the path of least resistance, I often was abandoning a personal boundary. Ultimately I was disappointed with myself and resentful of the person I was placating. We weren’t making any forward progress with an issue or with our relationship. Neither of us was sustainably happy which is why the same old pattern would repeat itself. The path of least resistance was a dead end street.
We are prone to say or do things that are hurtful and detrimental to another especially when we are in a disagreement or stressful situation — or if we have held something in for far too long. It’s not a true reflection of who we are and it certainly isn’t helpful to others for whom we genuinely care.
If you choose the path of least resistance and ignore your feelings, you are compounding the problem. Maintaining healthy boundaries frees you from holding things in that most definitely will affect you, both now and later.
Mindfulness has been so beneficial in getting to really know myself and what I need to feel safe, respected and fulfilled. I’m pushing myself out of an old non-productive comfort zone and am now expressing my needs to others in a direct and honest way. Turns out when I was feeling unappreciated or disrespected, I was actually allowing it.
An added benefit of paying closer attention to my own resistance is gaining greater insight into what others resist. I’m striving to be a better, more compassionate listener. Helping someone identify what is at the core of their discontent is personally rewarding. So many times we are on overload with life’s stresses and distractions, it’s hard to discern what the real problem might be. Taking time to ask open ended questions and really listening with empathy often yields surprising observations. Better yet, it can also provide some remarkable resolutions to misunderstandings.
To help me with improved communication skills, I turned to one of my favorite resources – Gaia.com and found a seminar series with Nicolai Bachman that provided helpful advice.
At the core of his message is this axiom — Always strive to be helpful and productive in your communications. Nicolai reminds us to be aware of how we talk and how we listen to avoid being hurtful and detrimental.
Nicolai offers these simple guidelines for our conversations:
- Don’t be afraid of the truth.
- Mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Strive for clear unbiased perspective.
- Inner happiness drives outer behavior.
Sometimes we say yes to activities or people when our hearts aren’t really in it. We won’t be fully present for the experience and our companions if that is the case. It’s okay to say no and it’s even better if you can honestly share your feelings for your decision.
Recently, a dear friend and I were deep in conversation about how we often say yes to things that we really don’t want to do, but find it hard to say no. I shared with her something that I had read that helps me now when confronted with this dilemma — “If the answer isn’t a resounding “hell, yes!” then it is not for me!
Gaia.com – Yoga Lifestyles section – Nicolai Bachman’s Introduction to Yoga Sutras (including Non-Violent Communication)
The Art of Communication by Thich Nhat Hanh