People will love you and people will hate you and none of it will have anything to do with you. I tell my clients this all the time. Often in a response to social anxiety or based on something awful that someone said. But I feel like this is such an important concept for all of us to remember. Of course, this is not to say that one shouldn’t notice patterns of their behavior or reactions from others to see if there is a common thread. I’m not suggesting we turn a blind eye to everything others think. But for the most part, if your intentions are good and they are not received in such a way, we might benefit from remembering that we have no idea what is going on for the other person. We know little of the journeys of others as we can only truly understand what it is to be one person: ourselves.
You will never know if you have hit on hot buttons of others or said something that sparked a previous insecurity. What may seem like an “overreaction” is often a “mis-reaction”, meaning a reaction to something else other than the person standing in front of them. When someone says something to us that may have been taken as very hurtful, we have to remember the whole picture. Maybe that hurtful comment was misdirected? Maybe really said out of pain rather than intent to harm? Maybe out of anger or anxiety in their own struggle…
We just don’t know all of the time…though we can guess sometimes. What if we responded with peace, calm, and compassion rather than anger? Ghandi said,“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” This is challenging, for sure. When someone goes off on you for seemingly nothing, or gets angry about things that don’t even make sense…most people’s knee jerk reaction is to fight back, defend themselves, and make their point known. Is anyone listening though? Or is it falling on deaf ears?
Think about the last real fight you had with anyone. Was there yelling involved? Crying? Strong emotions? Did you really listen to the other person? Did you feel listened to? In high emotional states, we are rarely in a mindset to empathically hear the other person, especially if their feelings are being screamed at us. We can’t be held responsible for other people’s behavior. But we can be responsible for our own. I often tell clients to lower their voice, not raise it when being yelled at. Speak quietly and calmly. Respond respectfully. Do not cower either. Respond with the intention of a cease-fire.
This can be so difficult sometimes. Especially in the moment in which you feel deeply hurt or insulted. But if you can, take the moment to step back, think about how you want to feel about the interaction when it is over, the next day, the next week, years later. Do you want to feel good that you won? Even if you said hurtful things or made things worse? Or would it be better to feel that you felt you responded with love and peace? I choose peace. During difficult times, I have to say this over and over, to remind myself to continue to choose peace, because it feels better. Because then I am not left holding onto anger. I can’t control others, but I don’t have to hold their anger either. That is not my responsibility. So next time you find yourself in a situation that makes your blood boil or heart hurt, take a deep breath, think about your actions, and do your very best to respond with peace. This is the only way the world will change. The only way for us to change our lives for the better. Keep choosing peace.