We have all said and done things that we later regret – at least I know that I have. In a typical day, I am sure that I unintentionally offend, hurt, or insult at least five people. I am especially weak when it comes to other people not acting in the way I think they should; I sometimes tend to criticize and complain with abandon.
Like love and compassion, negativity multiplies when it is used. When we unload our pain and suffering in unhelpful ways, others ingest this hurt and it impacts their feelings, communications, and interactions. Through careful self-examination, we can minimize the negativity that we dump onto others.
Our words and behaviors are influenced by our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings tend to run deep and are influenced by a messy and unwieldy conglomeration of past experiences and future expectations. Untangling and sorting through this clutter to uncover the love and light inside of us requires patience, humility, and honesty.
The Buddha and Aristotle have two teachings that are helpful as we navigate this and many other life processes. The middle way is a Buddhist belief that moderation will lead to enlightenment. Similarly, Aristotle encouraged temperance as a means to practice virtue. Both remind us that we are continually balancing what seem to be conflicting values. With one breath, we tell ourselves that want to be happy and for others to love us. With the next breath, we say something hurtful or inappropriate that leads to the exact opposite outcome.
Cultivating awareness of our values, feelings, and thoughts and infusing them with forgiveness and compassion (of self and others), as well as gratitude, increases our understanding and ability to auspiciously translate our internal turmoil into external tranquility. Every moment is an opportunity to learn, change, and grow.
When communicating with others, think carefully about your goal. Is it to prove you are right? To change the other person? To find a mutually agreeable solution? To create better working relationships? To express your love and gratitude? Unexamined potential consequences of our actions can lead to the unintentional deterioration of relationships.
There are times that we will need to have very difficult discussions with others. Perhaps they made a mistake that resulted in your company losing money. Or maybe they did something that caused discord within your organization or your community. At these times, a few guidelines will help to keep the conversation constructive:
– Recognize that we all make mistakes. Perhaps this experience is reminding you of something you once did and you are remembering the way you were reprimanded. Explore your feelings before reacting.
– Pause and reflect before speaking or acting when you have that luxury. Meditate and practice breathing to gain perspective before intellectualizing and rationalizing things in your head. Consider all of the potential consequences of what you say and do.
– Be honest, direct, and sincere. Do not escalate, project your feelings, or accuse.
– Don’t bring up the past or set things up to fail in the future. Focus on the issue at hand and resolve it peacefully.
– Listen intently to the other person, but also to your own heart.
– Be proactive rather than reactive. Continually work on building positive, trusting, loving relationships.
– Find a vent buddy, a person removed from your work situation with whom you can share your frustrations and challenges without causing harm
– Create opportunities to process and release your negative energy. For me, this includes writing, walking, and beach bumming.
In addition to saying things that might hurt other people, I sometimes say negative things about myself or fail to recognize the beauty of my soul in some way. This includes rejecting compliments, downplaying my abilities, and haranguing myself in front of other people. While much of this behavior is driven by humility, just as much is influenced by self-hatred. Negativity sent into the universe will follow us as a cloud might chase after the sun on a windy day. When we express love for ourselves, we are better able to express love for other people. As leaders, we are role models for many other people. By being kind and caring to ourselves, we encourage our employees and others to also appreciate their gifts and to share them freely.
It is also essential to frequently remind others how much they are loved and appreciated. Let others know how highly you value their contributions and are honored to have the opportunity to work with them. Intentionally create positive interactions and communications and let this be your modus operandi when working with other people. Let other people know how much you value your team; brag a little! Of course, always be sincere when complementing others. If you look hard enough, you will find something positive within everyone.
Create a climate of respect, dignity, and reverence for all people – yourself and others. By being proactive and positive in our words and actions, we can create a healthy, flourishing environment.