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How A Good Nickname Can Turn a Foe into a Friend

"I had a meeting with Orrin Hatch today," a client of mine, Jane, told me a few weeks ago. "He is so funny, that man. He ranted for 15 minutes about the state of the soap dispensers in our building. How cute is that?"

The "Orrin Hatch" she was talking about was not the esteemed senator from Utah, but rather her boss, Joe.

A month ago, Jane couldn't mention Joe without becoming livid. "That man just talks and talks about nothing! He wastes all of our time with endless meetings, and still doesn't get anything done. We just sit there and zone out. How could he be so clueless?"

Jane was at the end of her rope with Joe. It was affecting not only her satisfaction at work, but also her marriage because she would come home each night and complain to her husband incessantly about Joe.

Jane had tried to work with Joe to change his leadership style. He didn't want to change. She had thought about leaving, but liked her job too much to quit. Still, Joe was enough of a dark cloud in her days that she knew that something needed to change. But what?

Can you relate to Jane's situation? Is there someone in your life who truly bothers you and you can't figure out how to "fix" the relationship?

There are many ways to solve this situation, and the one I want to talk about today is acceptance. Because, if you are like many of my clients, a lot of your misery comes from wishing that other people would be more like you.

Jane wished Joe would be more efficient, like her.

You might wish that your partner would stop his potty humor and be more highbrow, like you.

You might wish your sister would be less dramatic, like you.

You might wish your business partner would be more conservative with money, just like you.

In fact, if you pay attention to the stream of your thoughts throughout the day, you will likely find that you are quite busy writing a treatise entitled The Way the World Should Work, According to Me.

The same was true for Jane. She had her opinions about how her boss should run his department. When he didn't follow them, she became annoyed and it darkened her day.

The solution? Accept and even, dare I say it, enjoy having a character as colorful as Joe on her team.

To do this, we gave Joe a new nickname. It had to be one that was endearing, that shone the light on his own unique quirkiness in a comical and fond way. We decided that Joe was like an elderly, veteran politician who could speak marathon filibusters without breaking a sweat. So we decided to call him Orrin Hatch, after the long-time senator who has participated in his fair share of filibusters.

The minute Jane starting thinking of Joe as Orrin, her perspective on him started to shift. Instead of getting annoyed when he would talk on and on about things like soap dispensers, she would smile and think about how he was truly living up to his name. It became comical, it became endearing, and it made him seem less like a monster who was doing things wrong, and more like a colorful character to be observed and enjoyed.

The meetings didn't get any shorter, but her enjoyment of them increased significantly.

My clients have had terrific success with this "Nickname Method" of accepting others. Some of my clients were even shocked to find that they started to like the other person, and would voluntarily hang out with them!

It just goes to show that annoyance and enjoyment are often states of mind that you can assign as you like.

Who, in your life, would you like to enjoy more? What nickname will you give that person? Come play this game with Jane... it will make all the difference.

In care,

Image Courtesy of Chris Schroeder

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