A friend and I step away from work to go get coffee. We reconnected having not interacted in any meaningful way in the last couple months. We talked of many things including the steps we can take to deal with difficult people in our jobs and lives. Sometimes there are people we just can’t quite relate to. We try different approaches only to find animosity or just a particular person being grumpy and stuck in a negative view of us. For those familiar with the teachings of Don Juan, these are often the petty tyrants in our lives. There are people in our lives who provoke our anger or annoy us to distraction. We discussed the difficulties of having to deal with these people on a daily basis and not being able to overcome the misery of our tormentors. We arrived at three steps that can lead to transforming our tyrant into an ally.
First, we have the choice everyday to adopt an entertainment mindset. Looking through the lens of entertainment we can see the folly all around us. We are all simply trying to make it look like we know what the fuck we are doing when in fact we simply don’t know. We pretend we know as it’s more comfortable to know and be in the know. This illusion of knowledge feeds our egos and creates opportunities for despair when reality does not unfold as we expected or knew it would. When situations unfold, we can see ourselves in the middle of a comedy. This opens our perception to laughter. When we realize we are but one of many actors in this comedy, we take a little energy away from our ego and set the stage for the next step.
Second, we have the choice in every interaction to find something we didn’t know. We can learn from every interaction if we can simply focus our intention on learning. Speaking with others can open up amazing insights if we can simply focus our attention on listening and learning. Listening with the intent of learning enables us to connect with others in lieu of acting out some drama or tragedy. Adopting the intention of learning opens our heart up to others and creates the foundation for the third step.
Lastly, we have the choice to build bridges between us and them. In doing so the relationship transforms from you and me into we. Finding how we relate to one another opens up the bridge to continued learning and finding the humor in our past differences. The bridges we form with others enable us to interact positively, find common ground, and provide a network of relatedness we can build trust and appreciation with. Our connections with others enables our long term success. It also enables us to find information that can help us work together to improve our processes of living, working and relating.
This three-fold path of building connections does something to us when we practice it in out daily interactions. Adopting an entertainment mindset, intention of learning, and seeking to build bridges chips away at the root of all our problems. I speak of the problem sitting atop your shoulders and more specifically what’s inside. Our egos create much of our difficulties in our lives. While important for our self-esteem and confidence, our egos get in the way of connecting and collaborating with others. Our egos may provide valuable defense mechanisms as we grow up in our particular environment and set of circumstances. Our egos are very valuable survival mechanisms adapted through the ages. Our egos are but one aspect of ourselves. Too much ego and we suffer from disconnection and delusion. Our ego’s need to be put in place. Utilizing the three steps outlined above are mechanisms to check our ego’s. In the wake of laughter comes appreciation. From learning comes humility. And, connections are critical to the functioning of our psyches and relationship. Without connections to others, purpose beyond ourselves, and a future we want to be in, despair and depression creep into and take hold of our lives.
With all of this in mind, I suppose the real key to dealing with difficult people and even very difficult situations is to realize the nature of our egos, use them as needed, but most importantly set them aside when we want to increase the value of our interactions and in the long-term the value of our lives. If you’ve made it this far in the reading, perhaps you found a little humor, learned or found a connection to a helpful idea.
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