You've changed

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Our levels of confidence also relate to how ready we are to accept change, and how able we are to allow our friends to change. To feel secure in ourselves, we need to be able to predict events reasonably accurately. We think we know our friends well, and so can predict what they will do.

We create a mental image of our friends, and we want to keep them within the bounds of that image. Our need to do this can override our ability to see our friends in the way they see themselves. We do not want them to change because then we would have to change our image of them. Change creates uncertainty, and uncertainty can be frightening.

When we seek to understand another person, we can do this only through discussion where we do not judge the other person, but ask for clearer descriptions of how he sees himself and his world.

We need to use two key questions. For example, if your friend says: "My mother died when I was five," ask: "How did you feel about that?" The answer might be: "I was upset because I thought she'd died because I was naughty". From such an answer, we can understand why this person always strives to be especially good.

If your friend says: "I always send friends and family birthday cards", ask: "Why is it important to you to send birthday cards?" Always include the words "to you". That way, the reply has to be a statement of one of the principles whereby the person lives his or her life.

[Dorothy Rowe]
How to Understand People ('With Friends Like These ... '), p.34, 35
Free supplement with Observer newspaper, for full article see here


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