In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d write about allowing people to surprise you.
There have been many times in my past where someone I didn’t like and who I thought was mean to me, became a good friend. I also have friends, who have told me, when they first met me, they didn’t like me but that was because they hadn’t take the time to get to know me. Once they did – they like me a lot.
Everyone brings their own fears and insecurities to every interaction they have with every person they meet. Everyone. And – everyone has at some point been hurt by another person. Sometimes that hurt comes from people they trust – like their parents.
These hurts can make people mean. It can make them less trusting. It can make them defensive. It can make them lash out to protect themselves.
Treating people with dignity and compassion, including people who are mean to you, doesn’t mean allowing people to hurt you. It means viewing what they are doing through the lens of compassion. Looking beyond their bad behavior to see the hurt self they are hiding and protecting.
When you do this. And you do it in a real way – meaning – you really feel compassion and can see the whole person and not just a mean caricature of a person, how you feel will change.
You may just find that by being nice, the person changes how they respond to you. Again, this does not mean you allow anyone to hurt you. It just means that you don’t need to hurt them to protect yourself from them.
As an exercise – I want you to think of someone you dislike and then, think about what it is like to be in their shoes. What might be causing them to behave that way. How does this make you feel? Do you think of them differently? How might you respond differently next time you see them?
And yes, this works for adults too. I recently counselled an adult who had felt hurt and scared by the actions of another and by helping her to think compassionately about the other person – her whole attitude has changed. She’s no longer focused on her hurt and fear, she’s focused on how she can help this other person feel more secure herself.
There is enough pain and suffering in the world. Let’s not add to it. Instead, let’s give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them to surprise us.