That person. The one who irks you? Maybe outright pisses you off? Who’s just a little too loud, a little too opinionated? A little too obtrusive towards you? They are not about you.
I was having supper with friends the other night and we got to talking about people we can only handle hanging around with in “doses.” Now, I’m not big on talking about people, because you know the saying:
Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.
So I am sure take every opportunity I can to put perspective on the situation because I strive to be a little bit better than the person I was yesterday. But also, there is this weird trait (gift?) in me, that always seems to see both sides of a story. That’s why I really want to get into couples coaching. #goals
It has been both a nemesis and a curse my whole life, but it is also why I was excellent in debate club. Before I really learned to harness it, it could really piss people off in conversation, especially my ex. “WHY CAN’T YOU AGREE WITH ME THAT THEY ARE AN ASSHOLE JUST ONCE.” LOL whoops. I really had to learn to read a situation, and ask permission before delving in to my devils advocate, and/or learn to read the other person on whether they were in a place of commitment to self improvement that I could take the conversation there.
Anywho. On this night, knowing my guests well I knew I could tread into this at least lightly. The “culprit” of our convo had been a partner of a long-time friend, who had slightly overstepped by giving some, uh, “friendly unsolicited advice” about this couple’s relationship after observing a private conversation between them.
As I sat back and listened to the replay, I could only agree that it was definitely aggressive and really not her business, but as well, there had been alcohol involved (devils advocate appearance #1). Further to that, without even meeting that person – we really need to remember – we don’t know other people’s stories. Without even meeting this person, I really felt her comments towards the other couple, could be simply something she really wanted to tell herself. whether it be about her relationship now, or from baggage in the past.
We all too often, project our own shit on to other people. It’s easier than dealing with it inside ourselves. It’s also easier to do it when our inhibitions are down and our blood alcohol content is up. #beermedoc
It’s also an unhealthy coping strategy. Deep rooted unresolved pain, things swept under the rug, keep piling and piling up – until you are backed in to a corner and can’t climb the mountain in the middle of the room.
Now, if you know me, or – maybe the old me. Adelle circa 1997-2005… you would know that I LOVE to argue. And I would usually always win. #debatechamp But I have spent years and years doing my best to become more wise, more refined, more kind. I had to go through a phase where I just deferred out of any conversation that I had a big opinion on. If I can’t say anything nicely…
After I tamed my inner dragon I was able to tactfully tread in to conversations without coming out with an enemy. But that was only half the work, because my thoughts and opinions were still there, they just weren’t allowed out of their cage. I knew there had to be more to it than that.
And there was. There is. It’s something I’ve talked about a few times now on the blog. Empathy. The ability to not have to “know” or “understand,” because if you haven’t been through the exact same thing, you can’t understand. But empathy…. that ability to reach deep down inside of you, to connect with some sort of feeling that might be similar to the root cause of theirs… and connect with that.
This person, the “offender” – had offered some pretty aggressive advice about “how to not treat a woman.” That’s the short – of the long of it. As a totally impartial third party, that’s all I needed to hear, to know that there likely was something deeply personal for her underneath that outburst. Perhaps she had been mistreated, perhaps she was being mistreated. She could easily have been projecting on to my friends things she wished she could say to herself, or to her spouse, or if her outburst was related to baggage from a past lover, unresolved pain of not yet finding the strength to forgive and heal.
Even if I made that up about her… I sleep better at night knowing that I feel and treated another person with empathy, rather than a reciprocal outburst back (even if it’s warranted on the surface). If all I do in life is treat unkindness with kindness, that’s a win for me.
We cannot change the world by matching other people’s behaviors. To fix, repair, evolve relationships, someone always has to be the bigger person first. I think this is in itself the demise of many a friendship, relationship, etc. To silence our ego, and choose treating someone with kindness over equality with how they treated us, is a big choice to make. To give first, without any guarantee of receiving, can be frustrating, and exhausting. That’s not to say you keep slugging it out with the same person time after time – they have a responsibility too, to accept that kindness, and lean into it. If you are going to stretch that far into unconditional love, it’s ok and you should expect eventual reciprocation and progress. If not, it is then ok to let that person go, and you can sleep easy knowing you showed them grace.
And for the long and short of it… just remember this above all else:
When you argue with a fool, make sure they aren’t doing the same thing.