June 2018: Looking beyond the obvious in people
I don't like the phrase "seeing the good" - as in "seeing the good in people" because it strikes me as rather sanctimonious and quite frankly a bit of a stretch, in the moment, in the face of someone who is being nasty tome.
I suppose that if I was by default a nicer, more generous person who had just walked down the mountain having lived on water and gravel in a cave for ten years being daily bitten by cobras - then I might just love everybody. But I haven't and I don't. I do however think there is a more realistic way, for us spiritually impoverished souls, to rub along with a far wider range of people. And even to learn to... see the good in those who we wouldn't choose to 'hang out' with.
So, for those of you, who like me, need a reason to try harder with people we don't instantly take a liking to... here's something to try. The approach is based around just one question to ourselves: what's behind this?
What's behind this person being so pushy?
What's behind the shouting?
What's behind the bad language?
What's behind the insistence?
What's behind the no listening?
So instead of labelling the unpalatable behaviour as 'bad', inappropriate', 'rude' or 'unacceptable' I have the option to not accept but to not believe either. In other words I can say to myself: This person isn't always like this, doesn't like being like this and... isn't like this when they are HAPPY. Furthermore... they are being like this with my help. I am taking part in this situation!
In acknowledging one or more of these possibilities I open up the possibility of feeling something other than anger or fear... dare I say a little compassion perhaps for the person who is kicking off? In this more helpful mindset I can then set to work to try to uncover what indeed is going on.
Option 1 - Empathy
You sound really annoyed/worried/pissed of with me/edgy/fed up
I guess that's because...
Option 2 - Assertiveness
I'm really uncomfortable about you raising your voice to me.
I'm actually feeling cornered by how you're talking about this.
Essentially I think we need to give people multiple chances to emerge from behind their disguises and coping strategies. I see both empathy and assertiveness as two constructive ways to upset a system that's often uncomfortable for all concerned. having seen an opportunity to emerge many people will revert to being more like their real selves: open, insightful, self-aware.
A case in point...
I was working with someone recently and he was talking about a great guy who was being put under a lot of pressure. The person in front of me was doing his best to show caring and respect to this unfortunate guy. So it was especially shocking to hear him name the individual as the person who was causing another of my clients, in the same organisation, a great deal of anxiety, with his aggression. Could this really be the very same person they were both referring to?
It was, of course. The difference was that one had believed the aggression and had not looked beyond the discomforting façade; they had 'bought' the unpleasant surface act. The other person had chosen to go beyond it and to call it out - in fact to eventually laugh at it and cause the 'nasty man' putting on the act to do the same.