by William Frank Diedrich –
It is a human tendency to categorize each other. We place labels on people and tell ourselves that is who they are. Once we create a label we look for evidence to continually prove that the label is correct. That comes from another tendency– the need to be right.
If you step back from your labels and reflect, you will find that your opinion of another is just an image. Images are usually not true. Each human being is a bundle of potentiality. We will only find this potential when we move beyond labels and learn to be present with people.
People speak; things happen; and we react. Reactions are conditioned responses.
We react without thinking. Someone says something. My brain interprets their words, their tone and their body language to mean something. I tell myself this is what it means and the story I tell myself becomes my reality. For example, I see someone who is clearly saying something that demonstrates he is only thinking about his own needs. I label him as selfish. I now become critical of him for his selfishness. I find myself feeling anger and some resentment that he only thinks of himself (and not me).
It is at this point in my thinking that I need to interrupt myself. If we step back from this situation and honestly look at “reality”, there are several things that emerge.
- People are often selfish.
- There are times to be selfish and there are times to think of others.
- When people are inappropriately selfish, it is out of fear.
- If I am thinking about how hurt or angry I am, who am I thinking about? Me. Therefore, my reaction to someone else’s selfishness is also selfish. Rather than being concerned for their state of fear, I am focused on my own.
- How does my judgment help this person?
- How can I be most helpful?
The trick is to be conscious and to not believe everything you tell yourself.
Just because you are totally convinced someone is a certain kind of person doesn’t mean you are right. In fact, you probably are not. Your view of another is an image.
As long as you are focused on the image, you cannot see the person. You cannot see the bundle of potentiality that stands before you. You cannot see that your judgment is a contributing factor.
If you judge someone to be a certain way, you will expect them to behave that way.
Your expectation will show up in the words you use, the tone of voice you take and your body language. You are part of this person’s environment. Your influence will set up an expectation, and other people will meet your expectation.
We often avoid communication, because we think we already know how the other person will react. The problem is not in how they will react. The problem is about how you will react. Will you respond to the person or will you react to the image you have of that person? How do you respond to a person?
You suspend judgment. You listen without judging. You listen with the intention of understanding them.
In order to listen you must become fully present. That is, bring your mind into this moment. Allow yourself to be surprised by this person, by who they are, by the potential that is within them. Don’t try to fix them but do help them.
What is help? Help is shedding light on what they are saying. Help is empathetic. Help is intuitive. Sometimes it means not saying anything. Sometimes it means offering another perspective or supplying information the other person doesn’t have. Sometimes it means direct, honest feedback. Sometimes it is reassurance. If you are in the moment you will know what to say and do, because your mind is not clouded by the past or the imagined future. You are not distracted by personal hurts and opinions.
In our relationships, each moment is new.
Things seem to be the same because we expect the same. We are so conditioned to see people in certain ways that we miss other possibilities. We adopt the attitude: “Don’t bring me any new data, I already have an opinion of you.” By being present, we open ourselves to new information. Personally, I find that I develop a new appreciation for people when I suspend judgment and listen. The other person can feel that I am truly listening and that I am accepting him. This helps him to feel safe and to trust me. Ah, you say, trust is the problem. I don’t trust that person.
The real question is: Do you trust yourself?
Do you trust your ability to listen, to understand and to make good decisions? Do you trust your ability to respond in the moment and to be truly helpful to another person? It’s not about trusting them.
If you are in a situation and you sense something is wrong, you act on that sense. Depending on the situation–you speak up; you ask a question; you leave; you bring to the surface the issue that is hidden. We each have an intuitive sense that many of us don’t trust. Practice trusting it. Have the courage to act from this inner knowing.
So often we set ourselves up to be disappointed or resentful of another person.
We create these huge expectations about how they should behave and they can’t meet the expectation. Accept people where they are right now. Seek first to understand where they are. Honestly express where you are without blaming them. Relate to the person, not your image of them. Bypass the constant chatter in your mind and be here now.
In this silence of right now your wisdom will emerge.