There is no denying that we are social creatures. Even the most introverted among us must admit that we need social interaction. We need it for practical reasons to do the stuff of life and fulfill our physical needs. More so, we also need it for emotional reasons. We need to connect and interact; to feel a sense of camaraderie and love.
However, somehow mixed into the beauty of what we wish to glean from these interactions, our relating to others sometimes goes awry. Irritation, anger, sadness and all sorts of emotions that feel less than wonderful come up at times even with the ones we love most.
So, what do we do to ensure that disharmony does not reign on our relationships and interactions?
- Don’t take things personally. If someone is snapping at you, saying mean things or just being an annoying, unpleasant grouch to be around, realize that this is their “stuff” playing out. If you choose to absorb it, you’re making their problem your problem. Shield yourself with an imaginary symbolic shield to protect yourself from their bad mood. It’s amazing how tensions deescalate when one side chooses to not absorb the bad mood of the other. It allows the individual to proceed objectively in the interaction and it doesn’t allow a fight to ensue.
- Eliminate your expectations. I’m not even going to say lower them, just eliminate them all together. When we place expectations upon people, we chain them up inside a box which traps and suffocates them. What this means is that we don’t get to know the essence of the person, we get to see only certain sides that meet our expectations. Essence=depth. Only seeing fragments of a person= shallowness. Do you want your relationships to be deep and real, or shallow? Expectations hurt both sides, because not only do they trap the one who has the expectations placed upon him/her, but they also limit the individual who is placing those expectations on others to have relationships that truly spell freedom for themselves. Can you be completely free when you don’t allow others to be free around you?
- Don’t judge. This is the next step beyond eliminating expectations. No matter what comes up or how a person treats you, don’t place judgments upon them. It’s okay to evaluate an act to maintain your own sense of dignity in asserting that a certain act was disrespectful. However, if you’ve judged the person for the way they have acted, you have again closed them into a box. People can change and we don’t know the motivating sources for their actions.
- See the light in the other person. Look, we all have our bad days and we all make mistakes. The key is that if we want people to accept us unconditionally even as we falter, we need to do the same for others. See that divine spark in others, even when they seem to be shooting emotional arrows at you or are irritating the heck out of you.
- Recognize when it’s time to turn away. You’re the most important person that you need to care for on this planet. Turning away from someone doesn’t mean that you don’t necessarily love or care for them anymore, but that you’re taking care of yourself. If a situation is too harsh and taking its toll on your system, even if you have protected yourself with that symbolic shield, it may be time to take a step back. We need to realize that we can’t change people. We can only give them the space to grow and receive love, but we can’t be there for people at the expense of our own well-being.
And with that I leave you with some words from the wise Joseph Campbell:
“Since divinity is the essence of every being, we must not let our moral judgments obscure from us the fact that God is shining through all things, even those of which we cannot approve.”
Photo credit: From Flickr, taken by Zitona
© 2012, Melina Schetakis. All rights reserved.