So- who has that person in their life they honestly can’t stand? You know who I’m talking about- the one who triggers you every time you interact. Who bothers you on a deep level. Who says things you can’t believe just came out of their mouth. Who you joke (or are super serious) about making sure there’s wine to be had if you have to spend time in their presence.
Sometimes we are lucky in that we can cut ties with these people. We can simply stop having them in our lives- just walk away and never look back. But what about the people we are “stuck” with? Maybe it’s a boss or a co-worker who is the single downside to a job you love. Or a family member.
I have one of these people in my life right now and I have to say, it’s been one of biggest relational challenges I have come up against in a very long time. I’m trying so very hard to overlook how malcontent, vicious, and childish this person is, because I understand that she’s coming from a place of insecurity and fear. I’m trying to rise above, to do and say the “right” things. But she’s making it SO HARD. And what feels even worse is that she’s got me so wrong- no matter what I do or how I say things, she seems hell bent on misinterpreting them to the worst scenario. Sound familiar? I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say I feel for all of you who have one of these people in their life. So what do we do?
Step One: Vent. Seriously. We are human. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t bother you. Call a friend who will agree with you that this person is heinous and ask you where the body should be buried. Let it ALL OUT. Every bit of frustration and anger and disappointment and hurt that you are feeling. Don’t bottle it- what we resist, persists. So get it out of your system. Side note: make sure this is someone who is 100% yours. Don’t pick a mutual acquaintance, or someone who is going to get stuck in the middle. That can make everything far worse- you don’t want your confidante running back to the object of your frustration trying to make things better or mediate. This is about getting all the energy of your emotion OUT with zero chance of consequences. If there is no one in your life who fits that bill- write it out. Write them a letter saying absolutely everything you wish you could say in real life. Get. It. Out. Second side note: DO NOT SEND THIS LETTER. Burn it, throw it out, but do not send it.
Step Two: Shake it off. The point of the venting is not to whip yourself into a frenzy… it’s to truly let the anger/frustration/negative energy out so that it can dissipate and you can come back to a more rational place. So take time to now to meditate or calm yourself in some way. Of course, I think meditation is always the best answer, but maybe it’s going for a long walk, or taking a bath, or hitting up a BodyCombat class. Watching some bad TV. Retail therapy. What do you do when you need to de-stress? Do that, until you are able to say this person’s name without seeing red or feeling your blood pressure rise.
Step Three: Honestly assess what, if anything, you can do to change the situation.
- If this is a miscommunication issue, step back and see how you can be more clear. Good time to reference Non Violent Communication skills. Keep in mind that there’s a good chance no matter how clear you are, this person might not be able to hear you…but that’s a topic for another newsletter.
- If this is more about perspective, see if you can see theirs. Literally try to put on their goggles, no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. What are their most common complaints or issues with YOU? See if you can understand how they might be reaching their conclusions about you. This one isn’t fun, because it may force you to face truths about yourself you do not particularly like. But try to do it, because the greatest growth comes from confronting these shadow aspects of ourselves.
- Face facts. There might not be anything you can do. They might be set in their ways as firmly as you are set in yours. This is the hardest conclusion to reach, because you end up feeling even more stuck. You’ve done all this introspection and concluded…. that you’re in the same place you were before and feel even more certain there’s nothing you can do to change it!
Step Four: the final step. The hardest step. The one you have to come to regardless of all the steps before. In fact, some might say you could skip all those other steps and jump right to this one. Ask yourself “If I were capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, how would I treat this person?” And then start doing that.
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m still ping ponging between this and Step One. Multiple times a day, usually. I go from being spitting mad with venom, to stepping back into my heart and trying to lead with compassion. Some days venom wins, some days compassion. But I try to only interact with my personal nemesis when I can do so from a place of love. Because at the end of the day, would I rather know in my heart that I have done the best I could, and that I entered every interaction from a loving place… or that I sunk to her level and rolled in the dirt and slung mud pies in her face? To be honest, it’s a close call some days. I admit to fantasizing about calling her out and leveling every barb I can think of in her direction. But then I ask myself who would that hurt? Only me. Because I can promise you, it would just roll off her back and become more reason for her to lash out at me. She wouldn’t learn from it, she wouldn’t grow; it definitely wouldn’t change her behavior. And I would end up being ashamed and feeling guilty. So as much as it might feel good in the moment (like eating a whole box of Girl Scout Cookies)… I know I would pay for it in the end.
“Show respect to people even if you don’t think they deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” Dave Willis
All that said – your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to pick one person in your life who greatly challenges you and try to make things just a little better. I’m not saying you need to be best buds with this person, by the way. That’s not realistic. But is it possible for you to change how you interact with them just enough to make it not so horrendous every time? Can you find some common ground? Can you calm yourself enough so that you are able to remain soft and stay in the heart versus lash out and take the bait? You might not want to pick your archenemy, by the way. Best to start with someone who is only of mild annoyance versus your personal nemesis. Take this month to challenge yourself to see what you can do to better your interactions…. you might be surprised how changing your attitude may influence theirs!
Light&Love…. and Good Luck!
p.s. I feel obligated to say that as much effort as you put into this… sometimes it doesn’t work. People can only meet you as far as they’ve met themselves, so there is a chance you try this and it feels like a complete failure. But I promise you, there is never any effort lost in an attempt to learn about yourself or cultivate compassion. So even if nothing in how you interact with this person has changed by month’s end… notice what has changed in yourself and celebrate *that*!