Last week on the blog we were swimming in love as we learned how to give and receive compliments. This week we’re trudging through icky waters, where bullying, abrasiveness, and negative misinterpretations lurk.
Though it’s nowhere you want to sightsee, it’s present along each of our journeys. An unavoidable part of life.
So how do we get through it?
Knowledge. Mindset. Compassionate Action.
Let’s dig in, but better grab your waders, this stuff’s toxic if you don’t know how to handle it.
1) Shield #1: Knowledge
Why do people treat us disrespectfully? They’re hurting.
“Hurt people hurt people.”1
It’s really that simple. And unless we’re in a position to help, we don’t have to know why they’re hurting. Just that they’re hurting.
Whatever’s going on in someone’s inner world bubbles up and gets expressed to their outer world.
If you want proof, just think of the last time you were feeling stressed or angry and issued a rude response to a loved one’s innocent question. Or the last time you were on the receiving end of such harshness.
Any fear-based emotion that comprises “hurt”—anxiety, fear, jealousy, stress, anger—can trigger bullying, abrasiveness, and negative misinterpretations.
So people’s disrespectful words and actions really aren’t about us; we just happen to be in their path.
2) Shield #2: Mindset
But if we’re not the problem, how can we be part of the solution? We break the cycle.
The truths from Step 1 ease us into a respectful mindset, allowing us to operate at a higher level and avoid getting sucked down into negative energy.
Respect might mean looking the person in the eye while calmly responding with one of the following:
- “I’m sorry if I upset you; that wasn’t my intention.”
- “I don’t agree, but that’s your opinion, and it’s your right to share it.”
- “I’m feeling really hurt by what you just said.”
- “I’m not going to be part of this conversation.”
- Or maybe it’s one of those situations when no response says it all.
The point is to let your mindset, not the other person’s hurt, dictate the conversation’s direction. Are you headed out of the swamp or deeper into the muck?
(If you’re interested in more tips on respect, you might enjoy “Respect Seem Like a Fairy Tale? Five Actions to Make it Real.”)
3) Shield #3: Compassionate Action
How do we close the loop? Love, in its various forms.
If it’s someone you know, try a kind gesture or loving touch combined with a variation of “I know something must be bothering you, and I’m here when you’re ready to talk.”
But if it’s a stranger or you’re not ready for the first option, you can show compassion through another form of love. All it takes is a bit of imagining:
- Picture the person.
- Envision a ball of good energy/compassion/love traveling from your heart to theirs.
- Picture that “ball of love” returning to your heart.
Regardless of the option you choose, the final step of either approach is to let go. Release the person’s words and actions and how they made you feel instead of reliving the situation throughout the day.
Because you’ve done all you can.
(This previous post “Do We Gain When We Let Go?” offers more guidance on letting go.)
So the next time your journey intersects with someone hurling nastiness your way, use these three steps to not only shield yourself but also extend a lifeline to a fellow hurting soul.
Which of the three shields do you feel is the most challenging to use? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
1This quote’s been attributed to several people including Will Bowen, Yehuda Berg, and Rick Warren. I’m grateful to each of them!