THE PROBLEM: No matter how many self-help books we read and seminars we attend, putting our wisdom into action is difficult for us humans. We can handle situations well if we have no emotional attachment. Yet the moment we care about the outcome, we seem to lose access to our “enlightenment.”
THE SOLUTION: We need to have people in our lives we trust enough to tell us the truth. If we have a coach, colleague, therapist or friend who is trained and able to give constructive, objective feedback, we might be able to get the help we need to step out of our mental ruts. It often takes another set of eyes to dispassionately look at situations. However, we must trust, admire and respect a person’s view on a particular topic before we will engage in the reflective dialogue necessary to see new possibilities.
For example, I was complaining to my first coach about my boss’s heartless behavior. After listening to my long harangue, she offered me a different angle on the situation. She saw my boss as operating as best he could with the amount of light he had. His light was small. Mine was big. I should have compassion for someone whose struggles were darker than my own.
I felt smugly satisfied with her explanation.
Then she hit me between the eyes. She said, “Since you have so much light, it is your responsibility to model what big light looks like.”
How could I refute this? If I declined, I would be stooping to his level. The next conversation I had with my boss, I had no choice but to swallow my frustration and model the behavior I wanted him to give to me.
My coach helped me to realize three important rules of engagement when dealing with people I have difficulty connecting with:
1. I have to accept the outlook of the person to whom I am talking to as right for them in that moment, and that their views have a grain of truth in them, at least from their perspective. If I speak to people with this in mind, I have a better chance that they will then hear my points of view as well.
2. It is my responsibility as an “enlightened human” to take the higher ground, and that forces will always work to drag me down when I am upset. Becoming the observer of my own mind while arguing with someone is my greatest tool and my greatest achievement.
3. I have the freedom to walk away from a conversation or relationship if, after an objective review of all possible courses of action, I determine that the situation neither forwards my personal development nor supports my values, visions and desires. If I choose to stay, then I accept my choice and my responsibility to make it work.
If you don’t have access to a coach in the moment, you too, can help others who trust you to see new ways of dealing with difficult situations. Ask them to tell you what is true about a particular situation, really. Then ask them when it is not true. Then ask what about the situation is working okay and to describe a successful solution. Finally, ask them what request they would like to make or what action they can take, no matter if it feels possible or not. This dialogue should help open up dialogue which should lead to solutions.
Helping others to better observe their brains and be the master of their reactions is a special gift you can give them.
Become an avid observer of your brain, and help others to step outside of themselves to question what their brain is doing. From this vantage point, you and your friends will be able to make “the enlightened choice” even when emotionally involved.