It’s tricky staying cool and compassionate when others aren’t.
But, results are powerful when you do. Not only will you feel better, but you will change the angry dynamic, lower stress for others involved, and contribute to an atmosphere of peace rather than hostility. This will help you move on and through without dealing with more muck. Here are some ways to do it.
Smile and send a silent hope. If someone is behaving badly, it might be because they a)have got big problems and stresses in their lives, b) they are jerks because they have big problems and stresses in their lives, c) they feel lonely because they are jerks with big problems and stresses in their lives.
No matter the scenario chances are people are experiencing some big stress and maybe a few problems and that can cause pain. Big, hard-to-notice-anyone-else, pain. And, if they are filled with that kind of pain and stress and anger, and that’s all they have inside, then that may be all they have to give to the world, right now.
I am sorry, then, and I do not want to contribute to more of the same.
For these people, on my best days, (sometimes I’m snarky but compassion is what I’m going for) I offer a gentle, non-sarcastic, sometimes-to-myself smile and send a silent prayer for their peace so that they can move through the difficulty and into something better.
Assume the best about the person. We all have bad days. Sometimes we make mistakes. But most of us are good people. We love our mothers and we work hard even when we are sick and we try to do the right thing. When you assume others are good not only will you feel more hopeful, but you will bounce off the negative behavior of others without getting wrapped up in it.
Think about your legacy and the energy you want to bring. Acting with compassion even when others seem undeserving is more about you than them. What legacy do you want to leave? What values are you aligned with? Often those who behave badly are in deep need of kindness. When you meet hostility with courtesy or understanding, you might ease the pain a bit, and you’ll also be showing who you are.
Consider their backstory – there always is one. Challenge, drama, pain, adversity are part of all of our stories and we don’t always handle them well. We aren’t always kind and aware and calm. Because I don’t always get it right, I know that when someone acts out, it is almost never about me. When I inadvertently cut someone off, it’s not because I don’t like them, it’s because I wasn’t focused and I made a mistake and nothing more. I didn’t do it on purpose. So, why then, when they cut me off would I get upset? Not my problem. Not my fault. Not about me. Wish them well and keep heading forward.
Repeat a compassion mantra. But, boy oh boy, can others get under our skin. It’s tough to always keep your cool around difficult people. This is when I use a little reminders – phrases that I repeat to myself before and after the holiday dinner, or meeting with a client. I repeat something like this: ‘I will act with kindness and calm.’ Or, ‘I choose compassion.’ Just so I can remember that who I am and how I want to show up in the world is not dependent on what others do.