How to make your world a hap­pier place

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - Peggy S. groSe Grose, author of the books ‘Love and Le­mon Pie, Recipes for the Body and the Soul’ and ‘Cel­e­bra­tion! A Woman’s Story of Courage, En­durance and Tran­scen­dence,’ lives in South Austin.

A friend once told me about a time in law school when each stu­dent was to take a cer­tain case and pre­pare an ar­gu­ment fromone side or the other. Af­ter their pre­sen­ta­tions, they were in­structed to pre­pare the same case, but to ar­gue it from the op­po­site view­point. The stu­dents were as­ton­ished at how pas­sion­ately they took each po­si­tion, based solely on choice.

“I re­al­ized then how­fiercely I tended to hold on tomy own view­point, at all costs, butwhen I made the de­ci­sion to look at the other side, I was just as pas­sion­ate about that one,” he said.

Some­times, an opin­ion is sort of like a suit of clothes that we don each morn­ing: “I like this out­fit so­much that Iwon’twear any­thing else. This suit is me. It’s who I am, my self. It feels com­fort­able, safe. I don’t want to hear about what else may be on the rack.”

But, of course, we are not what we’re wear­ing any more than our opin­ions are who we are. Nei­ther has to be per­ma­nent. We can choose to change or hold onto our opin­ions and still keep them sep­a­rate from who we are. Stop the name-call­ing. Stop van­dal­iz­ing cars fea­tur­ing bumper stick­ers with which you dis­agree. Forgo the hand sig­nals. Be­have your­self. Grow up.

Jerry Jam­pol­sky, who wrote “Love is Let­ting Go of Fear” and is the founder of the Cen­ters for At­ti­tu­di­nal Heal­ing, wrote that neg­a­tive emo­tions are­mostly fear of not be­ing loved. So if there is no bound­ary be­tween our opin­ions and­whowe are, then, sure­ly­wewill re­act de­fen­sively to pro­tect our­selves when deal­ing­with con­tro­versy. Lit­tle­won­der there is so much venom in the air.

We don’twant to be found­wrong. Long-held no­tions, even if proved wrong, are hard to let go of. Here are some sug­ges­tions:

• Let’s ex­am­ine and re-ex­am­ine our lean­ings and read and study and dis­cuss, which ex­pands our uni­verse. Try­ing to un­der­stand where the other guy is com­ing from is hard, but it would con­trib­ute to a more peace­ful world. Re­mem­ber that he has a right to his views, which are just as pre­cious to him as yours are to you.

• If you want to pro­mote peace and un­der­stand­ing, ask ques­tions, but don’t cloak them as a chal­lenge; state them out of the de­sire to un­der­stand. Lis­ten to her in­sights. Lis­ten with­out in­ter­rupt­ing and with­out hos­til­ity. Help the speak­er­make her­self clear. Nod, not in agree­ment, nec­es­sar­ily, but to in­di­cate that you hear. That’ll ease any po­ten­tial hos­til­ity. If you don’t un­der­stand, ask again. You can think of this as an ex­per­i­ment.

• Re­mem­ber that many peo­ple think they are com­mu­ni­cat­ing when they are sim­ply tak­ing turns talk­ing.

• If a dif­fer­ent view­point feels like a threat, don’t put up your fists. Take a deep breath. You are safer if you don’t ap­pear threat­en­ing to the other per­son.

• If you must, speak your own side of the is­sue. If he takes of­fense and­wants to quar­rel, ex­plain that you’re only try­ing to un­der­stand. No­tice how fear­ful he seems. Help him feel safe.

• Re­mem­ber that the things we are most afraid of are those that we don’t un­der­stand. On­cewe un­der­stand that the air­mov­ing over the wings of the plane cre­ates a vac­uum un­der­neath the plane, cre­at­ing lift, we won’t be afraid of fly­ing.

• Fear is trig­gered by the amyg­dala, a tiny or­gan on the top of the brain stem. With­out a brain, it has no ca­pac­ity to think. It doesn’t ask ques­tions or make in­formed de­ci­sions. It only re­acts. It needs time to con­sult the cere­bral cor­tex be­fore we can make an in­formed de­ci­sion.

• I dare you to do this: Find some­onewhose opin­ions you to­tally dis­agree­with. With com­pletely neigh­borly in­ten­tions, try your best to un­der­stand his opin­ion­with­out get­ting into a brawl. Re­lax and lis­ten.

• Stop the name-call­ing. Stop van­dal­iz­ing cars fea­tur­ing bumper stick­ers with which you dis­agree. Forgo the hand sig­nals. Be­have your­self. Grow up.

• Ask your­self, “What’s the cost of be­ing right? What am I missing?”

• Give up the need to be right, dog­gone it. Watch out. You might change, stretch and grow a lit­tle. Your blood pres­sure might nor­mal­ize.

Your world will en­large. You’ll have more peo­ple to talk to. You will be less fear­ful. You can get more done with less en­ergy.

From our ex­am­ple, our chil­dren will learn more­ma­ture be­hav­ior, prob­lem-solv­ing skills, ways to think for them­selves.

And your world will be a hap­pier place.

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