Powerful tools to increase well-being abroad

By Torrey Wiley  (compfight.com)

By Torrey Wiley (compfight.com)

Last week I’ve shared with you the importance of creating a relationship of positivity. This is not about ‘positive thinking’. It’s about redirecting your focus. To help out, here are a few questions that make you focus on what you enjoy in Amsterdam.

  • What makes my day here?
  • What do I find enjoyable about being here?
  • What thrills me about this place?
  • What am I overlooking when I worry about being here?
  • What things put a smile on my face here?
  • If I were to be stuck on a deserted island, what would I take with me from this place?

I’m sure you came up with just a few things that you enjoy. I encourage you to commit to really doing those things without postponing.

Click to tweet: “At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So, really commit by scheduling these things into your calender, writing them into your agenda, and really doing them. You’ll immediately see the difference.

And now on tool #3 that also comes from the research conducted by Dr. John Gottman. When Gottman watched couples argue, he discovered that those relationships that consistently exhibited the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse in their fights were the least likely to last. So who are the four horsemen of Apocalypse and, more importantly, how do they relate to culture shock?

If you spend the next few fights not only fighting but also closely observing yourself and your partner-in-crime, you’ll discover something. You’ll discover that fights escalate out of control and offer the least possibility of ending peacefully if any of these elements are present: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These are the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse and all four create a high degree of negativity in any given relationship. And that often proves to be lethal to the relationship in question.

Marriages and couples aside, what do these horsemen have to do with culture shock? Quite a bit actually. Imagine yourself unhappy in a country you are in or imagine yourself having a bad day. As with any relationship, your first inclination might be to resort to these four horsemen. You may engage in:

  • criticism (“these people are so rude!”)
  • become defensive (“It’s not my fault they don’t understand me”)
  • act in contempt (think of all the eye-rolling, sneering or hostile humor) and even
  • stonewall (“well, if that’s how they are going to be, I won’t deal with them at all”)

This kind of response doesn’t only do anything to improve our day, it actually does a great deal in damaging our relationships to the culture. Bitterness and disrespect grow like weeds and soon we find ourselves resenting the very name of the country we live in and of the people that populate it. This, of course, creates more unhappiness that, in turn, brings more of the same. Bad days pile one on top of the other and soon you find yourself desperately waiting for that flight that takes you out of here. Is that the way to spend a few years of your life? I think not.

So here’s how you can tame the horsemen and manage the culture shock that arrives with them. Tool #3 is based upon decreasing negativity in conflict.

In order to do that, you first need to observe your reaction for the next few times when you find yourself frustrated or having a bad day. What’s your first inclination? What emotions show up in you? If you notice any of the mentioned horsemen, accept that they showed up, but don’t let them take over.

After a few of these observations you will know which horsemen show up, when they do it, and how that makes you feel. Now it’s in your hands to disarm them. There are a few things that work:

  • You can smile. Just smile
  • Ask yourself: what’s funny about this situation? What can I laugh about here? What would someone else laugh about here?
  • You can go back to your values and ask yourself this: how is this attitude serving me? What values am I not honoring when I allow those horsemen to run my response? What can I do differently here to honor that value?
  • You can put your attention on the offending party. What might their perspective be?

Celebrate when you succeeded in disarming one of the horsemen. And stay alert. Changing behaviour is one of the hardest things to do and staying consistent in this change is even harder. Good luck!

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