How to make your world a happier place
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.