CHOOSE CONNECTION WITH OTHERS OVER SEPARATION FROM THEM.
"The next time you’re tempted to judge someone, take a deep breath and add 'And, I am too' to the end of your judgement." -Lissa Rankin, MD
We are eager to project all of our faults onto others rather than take a deep and often scary look in the mirror. (Take a deep breath here.) At one point or another, most of us have avoided dealing with our shortcomings by pointing fingers and disliking other people. The temporary high of complaining about someone only stirs up more problems until an annoying preoccupation with this person overwhelms your thinking. Save your sanity and look at yourself more closely the next time you’re tempted to complain about someone else.
Every time you have a problem with someone. Recognize, it is your "having a problem with someone" that is creating the problem.
We’re Living Longer Only to Live Lonely.
When we go through life evaluating others to find out what’s wrong with them, we cut ourselves off from meaningful human connection. We become lonely. Loneliness has now been studied and shown to surpass obesity as a risk factor for disease and early death. Google it, you’ll find articles from NY Times, Time Magazine, and more. Loneliness, due to its health implications, is actually considered a public health issue.
Don’t wait until you’re lonely to give people a chance.
When there is a smorgasbord, you get to pick and choose.
We don’t have to love every single thing about someone to accept, connect with and enjoy them. Instead, think of people as though they are a smorgasbord buffet. Don’t pigeonhole people into having just one or two character traits. You, the buffet patron, get to pick out what you’re going to put in your mouth. Make it enjoyable for yourself. Pick out the good, tasty, appetizing stuff. Be a fun finder, a fantastic finder, a sweet finder, a smarty pants finder, or a humor finder. Above all else, try your best NOT to be a fault finder.
What about when there are irreconcilable differences? How do I choose connection?
Gina is a lesbian friend of mine in San Francisco. Her 85 year-old parents live in Detroit, where she was raised. They both voted for Trump, someone Gina has “a very low opinion” of. During a post-election visit, Gina’s parents were eager to talk about “all the good” the president is doing for the country.
Gina disagreed and voiced her opinions but her parents fought back harder, as tends to happen when opposing camps argue. Each side clings harder to its own position.
Later during that trip, Gina realized that her parents wouldn’t be alive and healthy much longer. She asked herself, “Do I really want to spend my last moments with my parents in heated arguments?”
Now, some families argue as a way of having heartfelt interactions but this wasn’t the case for Gina’s family. In the end, Gina chose connection with her parents by cherishing the things she loves about them, helping them with chores and home repair projects and reminiscing with them about her childhood memories. She came to accept that some disagreements with them will be irreconcilable but that she could always feel love for them.
Connect where you can with others. Otherwise, set boundaries to keep yourself grounded and safe. For example, send a card or make a phone call rather than attend a dreaded event.
How do I choose connection when people are mean?
People often use hostility to push us away. We can recognize this as some kind of fear in the person that we may never understand. By not letting them provoke us into a fight, we are offering connection. It is up to them whether they receive it. Either way, silently wish them peace.
We do not have to receive anyone’s hostility just because they are dishing it out. Here is a Zen Buddhist story that illustrates this idea:
Near Tokyo lived a great Samurai warrior, now old, who decided to teach Zen Buddhism to young people. One afternoon, a warrior – known for his complete lack of scruples – arrived there. The young warrior had never lost a fight. Hearing of the Samurai’s reputation, he had come to defeat him, and increase his fame. All the students were against the idea, but the old man accepted the challenge.
All gathered on the town square, and the young man started insulting the old
master. He threw a few rocks in his direction, spat in his face, shouted every
insult under the sun – he even insulted his ancestors. For hours, he did everything to provoke him, but the old man remained impassive. At the end of the afternoon, by now feeling exhausted and humiliated, the young warrior left.
Disappointed by the fact that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students asked: “How could you bear such indignity? Why didn’t you use your sword, even knowing you might lose the fight, instead of displaying your cowardice in front of us all?”
“If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, who does the gift belong to?” asked the Samurai.
“He who tried to deliver it,” replied one of his disciples.
“The same goes for envy, anger and insults,” said the master. “When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to the one who carried them.”
-Story written by Paulo Cuelho
How do I choose connection when other people are wrong?
As long as blame is being placed, there can be no improvement in a relationship. Blame and identifying where the other person is wrong will never get you the kind of connection you seek.
Everything comes down to you deciding what you are willing to tolerate, setting your personal boundaries and then accepting the other person for who he or she is. You can still love people and not spend your time with them. Your love may not end but your willingness to be wronged does.
The Trump Era: A Note on Adversaries
This time period raises very helpful questions for us and our growth. Sometimes we need an adversary to better know who we are or to better decide who we want to be.
Let an adversary be the clarifying factor that helps you better own your core values and live them. Personally, I consider my mother in the category (sorry mom). She can really give me hell but it helps me better narrow in on my own answers. I am also challenged to practice the values that typically come easy to me. Are grace, patience and harmony really of utmost importance to me? A little time at home will bring these questions to the forefront. I will also have the opportunity to strengthen my ability to live these values while being challenged. This helps me stand in my values even more securely and that is a huge benefit to me!
Adversaries don't need to be fought against. They need to be appreciated for what they help us learn about ourselves.
Who are you struggling with in your life? Can you apply an idea from Choose Connection to help see this conflict in a new way?
Question to ask yourself to try and figure out what is going on:
- Am I seeing the parts I dislike about myself in this person? Am I projecting?
- Am I accepting someone’s insults or hostility as true? Am I feeling insecure or unhappy with myself?
- Do I need to set a boundary with this person? Am I doing too much or not setting limits?
- What am I getting out of having a conflict with this person? Self righteousness? An excuse to hide and not participate?
- Am I facing an adversary who can help me live and solidify my values? Is this person helping me be more of the person I want to be?