Never underestimate a person's challenges. Everyone is fighting. Some are just better at hiding it than others.
Too often we judge people too quickly, or too subjectively. We tell ourselves stories about them without thinking it through – our perceptions and prejudices get the best of us. I was reminded of this today when I received the following in an email from a Think Better, Live Better 2020 ticket holder (I share this with permission):
"… I learned the hard way so that a smile can hide so much ̵
Talk about a reality check, right?
What we say to others – what we think we know – is often far from the truth.
And with that in mind, I sit here and reflect on all the little things we have to stop adopting about other people, for their sake and ours …
- We have to stop assuming that the happiest people are simply the ones who laughs the most. – Behind the polite smiles and greetings that people give you, some are hurt and lonely. Don't just come and go. Watch them. Care. Share. Listen. Love. We can't always see people's pain, but they can always feel our kindness. So be kinder than necessary.
- We must stop assuming that the people we love and respect will not disappoint us. – When we expect perfection, we tend to overlook goodness. And the truth is that no one is perfect. Sometimes they lose confidence, the patient loses their patience, the generous act selfishly and the informed other guess what they know. It happens to all of us too. We make mistakes, we lose the tempers and take care of them. We stumble, we slip and fall sometimes. But that's the worst … we have our moments. We are usually quite good, despite our shortcomings. So treat the people you love accordingly – give them the space to be human.
- We must stop assuming that the people who do things differently are doing things wrong. – We all take different paths that seek fulfillment, joy and success. Just because someone is not on their way does not mean they are lost.
- We must stop assuming that the people we disagree with do not deserve our compassion and kindness. – The opposite is true. The way we treat people we disagree with is a report card about what we have learned about love, compassion, kindness, and humility. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the "Relationships" chapter in the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things That Happy, Successful People Do Different.)
- We must stop believing that we cannot trust on people we don't know. – Some people build too many walls in their lives and not enough bridges. Don't be one of them. Open yourself. Take small chances on people. Let them prove your doubts wrong, gradually over time.
- We must stop assuming that the rude person in the world is directing us. – We can't take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of us. They do things because of them. And there is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes to us when we detach from other people's behavior. So remember, how others treat you is their problem, how you react is yours.
- We must stop assuming that other people are our reason for being unhappy, unsuccessful, etc. – We may not be able to control all the things people say and do for us, but we can decide not to be reduced by them. We can choose to forgive, or we can choose to forget. We can choose to stay, or we can choose to go. We can choose anything that helps us grow. There is always a positive choice to make. Thus, the only real, lasting conflict you will ever have in your life will not be with others, but with yourself … and how you choose to respond … and the daily rituals you choose to follow. (Angel and I build small, life-changing daily rituals with our students in the module "Goals and Growth" to get back to happiness.)
Managing people who deeply offend us
Some of the points above (to example numbers 4 and 6) potentially require a willingness to heartily address people who scream at us, interrupt us, turn us off in traffic, talk about terribly troubled things and so on.
These people violate the way we think people should behave. And sometimes their behavior deeply offends us.
But if we let these people come to us, over and over again, we get upset and insulted all too often.
So what can we do?
There is not There is a solution of all sizes, but here are two strategies Angel and I often recommend to our course students and live participants:
- Be bigger, think bigger. – Imagine a two year old who doesn't get what she wants right now. She throws a mood attack! This small, temporary problem is huge in her small mind because she lacks perspective on the situation. But as adults, we know better. We realize that there are plenty of other things the two-year-old can do to be happy. Sure, it's easy for us to say – we have a bigger perspective, right? But when someone offends us, we suddenly have a little perspective again – this little, temporary crime seems huge, and it makes us want to scream. We throw the equivalent of a two-year temper attack. But if we think bigger, we can see that this little thing means very little in the big thing. It is not worth our energy. So always remind yourself to be bigger, think bigger and broaden your perspective.
- Mental hug them and wish them better days. – This little trick can positively change how we see people who offend us. Let's say someone just said something unpleasant to us. How dare they! Who do they think they are? They have no regard for our feelings! But of course, with a heated reaction like this, we also do not take into account their feelings – they may suffer in an unthinkable way. By remembering this, we can try to show them empathy and realize that their behavior is probably driven by some kind of inner pain. They are uncomfortable as a coping mechanism for their pain. And then mentally we can give them a hug. We can have compassion for this broken person, because we have all been broken and in pain at some point too. We are the same in many ways. Sometimes we need a hug, a little extra compassion and some unexpected love.
Try one of these strategies the next time someone offends you. And then smile and breathe, armed with the comforting knowledge that there is no reason to let someone else's behavior transform you into someone you are not.
Your turn …
How have your judgments and expectations of others affected your life and relationships?
Do you have any additional thoughts or insights to share?
We would love to hear from you. Please leave a reply below.
Our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference takes place February 8-9, 2020 in San Diego. Four tickets with discounted early birds are still available today (while they last).