Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Enlightened People: How I Handle Those I Don't Much Care For

It would be wonderful if every single person I interacted with during the course of my days was thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting to me.  That they all improved my day and increased my joy.  That isn’t the case however.
Even if almost everyone fits the bill there are always going to be a few people that just don’t rub right—a grumpy or unhelpful cashier or co-worker, the annoying significant other of a dear friend, a relative who always seems to find the negative in everything.  Sometimes I cannot avoid these situations and they used to frustrate me greatly.  My internal monologue would grow snarky and bitter—and I didn’t like that feeling within myself.  I, too, want to be thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting to the people around me.  It is a two-way street.
So I wanted to cultivate a better attitude toward spending time with those I would rather have little or no contact with of my own accord.  I wanted to do this so I was kinder to the person I didn’t really care for.  I wanted to do it for myself, to ease my sense of dislike about the whole interaction.  I wanted to do it so I wasn't adding more negativity and meanness to the world.
I don’t know if I’d recommend the book as a whole, but there was a little something I read in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and Its All Small Stuff) by Richard Carlson that I’ve used for a couple years now with, more or less, pretty great results. I can’t say it’s worked 100% for me, I am just a fallible human after all, but overall I’ve found it incredibly helpful.  
The trick is to approach these challenging people/situations as if they are enlightened beings who are here to teach me a valuable lesson. 
Perhaps it’s an opportunity to increase my capacity for patience. 
If I am waiting in traffic or in a line behind people being “needlessly” slow a head of me I have two options:  wait patiently or wait impatiently.  Patience is a great gift to possess in life.  I don’t see how taking these small moments to practice my ability to be patient with people could possibly be a bad thing.  It’s kinder to everyone involved—myself included.  Why allow my body to get even the slightest bit worked up about something as insignificant as waiting a little while?  And practice really does make perfect.  The act of being patient breeds more and more patience.
Perhaps it’s an opportunity to recognize and work on one of my own personal short-comings. 
If I find it annoying when a person is clearly just waiting for me to stop talking so they can jump in with a bigger, better story of their own or if someone always rushes to finish my sentences for me, I should note that I don’t like it and remember that when I am the one talking.  Doing so has helped me become a better, more respectful listener and a better friend.  In a world full of noise—a barrage of info, videos, news, social events, and social media—sometimes it really is better to stay quiet and listen.  This has been an invaluable lesson to me, a more natural chatterbox.
Perhaps it’s an opportunity to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude. 
When I am listening to endless complaints from people who always have something to grumble about—bad weather, bad health, bad jobs, bad traffic, bad birthdays, bad dogs, bad bills, bad husbands, bad economy, bad politics, bad, bad, bad—I basically shout to the rooftops from within the confines of my mind, “Praise be for the great joy in my life!”  I have such a good thing going on that while there might always be flat tires on my bicycle, plans that don't work out, and other things to grumble about I have so much cool stuff going on I’d rather talk about.  I read somewhere once that while they may not all be great days there is something great in every day.  As with the patience I have found that the more I am grateful for all that I have the more I find to be grateful for.  It grows.  So, I take these moments with those who are so invested in negativity to feel especially grateful for all the joy that fill my days. 
Perhaps it’s an opportunity for me to practice my tact and compassion.
There was a time when I wouldn’t let a chance to “speak up” go by unclaimed--no matter the time, place, or how it might be received.  I was so passionate about what I was learning and working on that I could be harsh and unpleasant to be around if you didn't agree with me.  It didn’t really help my cause.  People don’t like being demanded to change.  I know I don’t. I learned to be tactful and kind when disagreeing.  I learned when to keep things to myself sometimes.  I learned to take a wider view.  There was an elderly woman who hated my dreadlocks.  She always told me so--every time she saw me.  I could have said, "Yeah, well I am not so keen on your blue curly mop either, but...."  But, I didn't.  It wasn't important enough to fight about with a little old lady.  I decided to just let it roll off my back.
I think that being able to be civil and respectful in any discourse with those you don't much care for has to be on of the highest aspirations we could have.  It seems like one of the hallmarks of acting like an adult.  By approaching these otherwise unpleasant or frustrating people/situations framed with this perspective they are much less maddening to me.  Again, its not perfect...some people are especially challenging....but it been beneficial.  It helps me get through the situations with a little more grace and kindness--and the world could stand more of that, I think.
All photos from Yellowstone National Park, most the upper geyser basin.  10/3/2015

3 comments:

  1. You are so wise. I've noticed that coming from a place of gratitude is key for me in everything - the daily grind, the unpleasant interactions, the frustrations in life...it all feels more manageable if I accept what is and try to be glad for it, rather than wishing things were different.
    -Jaime

    ReplyDelete
  2. Being taught a valuable lesson yes that sounds right! Usually when I am being presented with the same situation over and over I know that I am being called to make a change :-). There is definitely something about taking the plank out of your own eye before removing the splinter in your neighbour's eye!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes! You've got it! I think we have that book at the library - I've never looked at it. (love the photos)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!