How do you know when to push harder, and when to ease up? The lid covering the battery compartment on the back of the radio came off easily enough, but it’s not clicking back in place quite right. I’m afraid to press it harder because I don’t want to break the little plastic clip. Do I need to back it up and slide it in at a different angle? Do I need to wiggle it?

My fitness client said she really wants to lose weight and tone up but she comes late and wants to leave early for our sessions at the gym. Should I confront her on this or just try to be patient?

My spouse is kind of depressed after being laid off and is not doing much around the house. Should I grant him more time to slowly recover or should I tell him it’s time to get the show back on the road?

I’ve been talking about going back to school for years now. Am I just procrastinating, or am I truly waiting for the right timing?

One easy guideline to remember is that the extreme solutions on each end of the continuum are usually not the best way to go. It’s rarely a good idea to use brute force when the thing or person we’re pushing is pushing back. And it’s usually not helpful to back off completely at the very first sign of resistance. The answer is usually somewhere between the two opposite ends of the pole.

Know thyself

One key strategy is to ask oneself, “Which way do I tend to err in situations like this?” In these kinds of predicaments, do you tend to push too hard or to back off too soon? Most of us are not perfectly balanced so will have a habit of leaning one way or the other. If you tend to turn the screws too hard, you’re going to strip more screws. If you’re afraid to pound the nail with the hammer, you’re not going to get the job done. Pay attention to yourself and know which way you tend to lean.

Know the other

Pay attention also to the habits or tendencies of the person or thing you’re trying to affect. Yes, I remember these battery compartment covers tend to want to be slid all the way back on an angle first, and then pushed down firmly. My spouse tends to not respond well to pressure when depressed, but benefits from gentle support. I know that in the past I have tended to wait too long to do the things I want to do, so I should probably make myself call the school today.

Notice the sounds

Throughout it all, a careful and intelligent listening, to the other and to ourselves, is required. When we push, we listen to the creaks and moans of the other and decide whether they are normal sounds of forward movement, or signs of trouble. When we back off, we have to decide whether the other’s sighs of relief are validation that we’re backing off wisely, or sounds of complacency. Listening to ourselves, we need to sense whether our pushing is a sign of frustration and impatience, or a healthy readiness to act. Likewise, we listen closely to determine whether our backing off is a manifestation of our fear of possible conflict or tension, or an appropriate response to the distress of another.

Art Frenz, Ph.D.

Image courtesy of greyerbaby/morguefile.com

Articles

Psychological Fitness

“Psychological Fitness” is my monthly column featured in the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun Bulletin since 2004. This page highlights articles, or adaptations thereof, from that column.