Dealing with People You Hate
Did you hear what Karen said to me?! Can you believe Brian interrupted my presentation?!
Do you find yourself fuming with frustration when someone cuts you off, oblivious to those around them? What about that bitchy mom at the park or the rude guy at work? What is wrong with these people?!
Well, did you know bitchy-mom recently found out she has cervical cancer? Yep. She lost her own mother eight years ago to cancer. She’s petrified she’ll leave her two young children without a mother.
Brian at work? As a child, his father continually reminded him of his worthlessness. Brian always struggled to make friends or meet romantic partners. He feels he’s not truly qualified for his job. Unfortunately, all of these fears and insecurities result in a very unattractive, almost hostile communication style.
Why is it so much easier to let go of resentment or hurt feelings when you learn of the trauma, the medical diagnosis, or the financial crisis. Once you know the background information, you realize their behavior is not about you at all. It’s about them.
Unfortunately, you don’t EVER know EVERYTHING about those who cross your path. You never truly know what anyone has endured physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or psychologically. You have NO clue. (Heck, I’d argue you don’t even have conscious memory and understanding of everything YOU’ve endured in your life.)
Why then do you often react AS IF you have all the information?
What if you could feel understanding and empathy without needing to know all the sordid details of someone’s past experiences, chemical imbalances, physical conditions, or abuse histories? What if you could jump over the hurdle of that requirement?
What if you could be compassionate even when you don’t know the whole story.
I recently read a Derek Sivers article entitled “How to Like People”. In it, he recommends treating every friend and stranger you encounter as if this is their last day on the planet. Tomorrow, this person is toast. How might you treat them differently? Maybe you’d have more patience? Hug them a bit longer?
What about a political figure? Someone you hate so much, you can hardly stand it. The anger and frustration makes your blood boil. Who cares what they’ve been through, they are hurting and terrorizing millions of humans! Try imagining that person as an infant, or a toddler. Imagine yourself seeing them at that young and innocent age. What would you say to them? What loving words could you offer that might change the course of that young life? You are enough. You are loved. You belong.
At our core, you long for love (attention, affection, praise, hugs, eye contact, appreciation), to feel a sense of belonging (community, connection, acceptance) and for safety (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and financial).
People behaving in a callous, thoughtless way are often merely seeking that love, belonging, or safety in a very misguided way.
Warning: This is not to say you allow yourself to be mistreated. Creating clear boundaries with hostile people is super important. In fact, it’s a critical life skill that requires a whole other article. This article is about not internalizing and dragging all that anger and hurt around with you for the remainder of your day, week, or life. Then, my dear friend, you become your own worst enemy.
Lesson Learned: Remind yourself that you never know someone’s current or past trials.
This will allow you some emotional perspective, improve your patience, and lighten your heart as you go through this wild life.
Be Selfishly Good
Did you know people who regularly help others live longer? Yep, they have less stress, lower rates of depression, higher life satisfaction, and improved immune function.
Don’t do it just because it’s the right thing to do or the world will be a better place if we all act kindly. Do it also for yourself. Do it for all the physical, emotional, and psychological benefits to you. The act of helping others (outside your immediate family) will bring more energy and purpose into your life.
Let me ask you this; What topics get you fired up? Do you want to rescue animals from puppy farms? Do you want to help children who are homeless? Do you want to help fund research for Congenital Heart Disease? World hunger? Polluted oceans?
What pulls at your heartstrings?
Not sure? If you could snap your fingers and solve one problem in the world, what would it be?
Still have no idea? Try this for two weeks; every morning and evening say to yourself, “I’m so grateful to know exactly what connects my passion, my talents, and my interests to benefit others.”
Did an idea come into your mind that felt completely ridiculous or impossible? If this is the case, ask yourself, is this something you care about deeply? If so, you are on the right track. Do something this week in the direction of this idea.
Call three organizations that serve this same goal or problem or population. Don’t email. Call. Sign up to spend your time or offer your skills or resources one time in the next month. Don’t wait until after the holidays, summer vacation, or your dad’s knee surgery. There will always be a good reason to delay it.
Lesson Learned: Be selfish. Help others and it’ll bring more smiles into your world.
Sleepy in Sweatpants
Is 90 minutes alone in Target your idea of paradise? If so, you might be in the mode I call Sleepy in Sweatpants. You know you’re here when running errands alone is the highlight of your week. Or, maybe you only dream of such luxury? You are in the weeds my friend!
The main issues here are social isolation (remember date nights?), unmet physiological needs (remember sleep, exercise, and good food?), and insufficient emotional support.
In Sweatpants mode, you may consider a day without crying, yelling, or eating an entire tray of brownies winning. It makes total sense. If you’re in this mode, I highly recommend you do this:
1. Get More Sleep… But, how?!
Instead of spending 20 minutes before bed on your phone, TV, or computer, turn it off. Say three things you’re thankful for, then close your eyes. Just breathe and notice your thoughts. Get ahold of a sound machine, blackout curtains, or have your niece draw a no-entry sign for your bedroom door.
2. Get A Hug…
Ask a loved one for a 7-second hug once a day. Most women need daily, physical, non-romantic touch. (And no, your 4-year-old dragging himself along the floor attached to your leg does not count!)
3. Spend Time with Adult Women…
In person is best. Get a neighbor to go on a quick walk with you. Make friends at the park, market, or anywhere. Believe me, other women are just as desperate for a social connection.
My doula recommends you spend at least 20 minutes every day with other adult women. Since I work from home and live with five males, this is something I have to pursue consciously. (While it doesn’t always happen, if I’m grouchy, at least I know why.)
4. Get Words of Appreciation…
The secret to this one is a bit counter-intuitive. Start by giving genuine words of appreciation. But, not to just anyone. Say these words to the same folks you want to hear appreciation from most. The key is this: you have to do it genuinely and with no expectation of return.
Make it a game. Give a specific and heart-felt compliment to someone you love. See if you can do it three times a day for three days. Then, give yourself a nice big, guilt-free treat when you’re done. Even if you’re feeling irritated and resentful toward everyone, try to find something to compliment. If done genuinely and consistently, you will see magical results.
The first step in taking care of those around you is (c’mon, you already know it) TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF. There’s only so long you can take care of those around you without replenishing yourself emotionally and psychologically.
Remember SHIC: (S)leep, (H)ugs, g(i)rls, and (C)ompliments.
No seriously, I mean it. Close your eyes for a moment and take a breath. (It’s ok, nobody is looking at you.) Take a slow deep breath then let out all the air you can. All of it… until you feel your stomach muscles contracting.
If you dare, do it twice more. Then, breathe normally.
(Ok, now close your eyes and actually do it.)
Breathing is not only good because it keeps you alive. Breathing deeply is not just for your yoga class. Nope. Breathing deeply…
- Improves your mental clarity and focus
- Enhances your metabolism and digestive processes (Sounds too good to be true, right?)
- Increases your energy levels
- Improves your memory, processing speed, and mental agility
- Improves your mood (I know you probably don’t need this, but just in case.)
- Reduces your impulsivity, cravings, and addictions
- Enhances your immune function
Why? Well, because…
- Breathing deeply oxygenates your blood cells
- Breathing deeply balances oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood
- Breathing deeply removes carbon dioxide and toxins from body tissue
- Breathing deeply improves blood circulation
- Breathing deeply increases melatonin levels
- Breathing deeply reduces your heart rate
- Breathing deeply reduces your blood pressure
- Breathing deeply decreases your cortisol levels
- Breathing deeply reduces activation of pain centers in the brain
- Breathing deeply releases endorphins
- Breathing deeply releases muscle tension
- Breathing deeply reduces biomarkers for inflammation
Try this trick, it’s one of my favorites.
As you’re finishing your shower tomorrow morning, don’t turn off the water. Instead, spend an extra THREE minutes breathing deeply with your eyes closed.
It may take practice or feel uncomfortable at first.
As slowly as possible, breathe deeply for three minutes. We often run off to the next task or hurry to meet the immediate needs of those around us.
Instead, give yourself the gift of three minutes of breathing deeply. You deserve it. It’ll improve your day. And, those around you just might see a difference as well.