I wonder how many times I’ve significantly hurt someone with my words or actions and I was oblivious to it. Friends, family, strangers, co-workers, schoolmates, secret admirers. Don’t you wonder the same?
You and I have been significantly hurt countless times without the perpetrator ever knowing or realizing or caring. At least we can all say we’ve been on both ends.
Here’s a great quote: How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite!
It’s a nice way to say: Mind your own fucking business and get off your high horse, asshole!
If unsolicited advice were a crime, we’d all be in prison. We give and get way too much of it.
You know the scenario. You start to describe a tricky relationship situation or a complicated feeling about your career or your weight to a friend, a partner, or a co-worker and before you know it, you’re getting a lecture on how to do everything better, like this person does. All you wanted really was to talk about your issue and have someone listen and hear you. Now you’re nodding your head vigorously, only agreeing to begin living your life their way in the hopes that this will shut them up but they prattle on and on, oblivious to the cry for help in your eyes. It’s frustrating and annoying and you make a mental note to no longer share your feelings and thoughts with this person.
Have you ever noticed, though, that you do the same thing? Have you ever found yourself thinking “Gee, I’ve been talking about this time for a long time. They aren’t saying much”. Well, my friend, you’ve given unsolicited advice also and the person on the receiving end of it was just as desperate to be listened to and heard, rather than lectured. Literally every human on earth has been on either end of this situation at some point.
How do you deal with it in both cases? Make sure you’re actually hearing what the person is saying. Stay present with them. When you do speak, give them a chance to talk and respond. Make sure that you aren’t only thinking of your response to what they’re saying. When you’re getting this unsolicited advice, try to see if there’s a hidden gem in there. When you suddenly realize you’re giving the unsolicited advice, remember that we all have our weaknesses and no one likes to have them poked and prodded at.
Ever heard the phrase “Opinions are like noses. Everybody’s got one”? Okay, maybe you heard a more vulgar version of it but the message is the same. In a sea of opinions, how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong? How do you know if your own thinking is correct or if you’re just shouting into an echo chamber?
It’s probably one of the hardest things I wrestle with–other people’s opinions. The best rule of thumb is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. You know that the racist you’re sitting with is wrong. They believe they’re right. Never the twain shall meet, right? They won’t change your mind, just as much as you can’t change theirs. However, you and every other person on the planet will be astronomically hurt by feeling misunderstood and unheard. What’s the middle ground? Truly listening and not thinking about yourself or your own opinions while you listen. Truly engaging with someone on their level and trying to speak their language. No ulterior motives. Try to understand where they’re coming from, if only to learn what makes this person tick.
Even people we don’t like or agree with want to be (or at least feel) heard and understood. It doesn’t mean you now agree with them or that you accept, or even tolerate, their opinions. Don’t believe for a moment that you haven’t also held an incorrect belief in your life. What you can accept is the humbling knowledge that every person on earth, including yourself, has been stunningly wrong about a lot of things.
Ya know, that moment when you hear yourself on a recording and you die one thousand times at the sound at your own voice? Sure, you do. Everyone knows that feeling. The voice that’s supposed to be you is coming from another person entirely. Normally, you sound sweet or sexy or cool but this person sounds painfully irritating. In that moment, you’re aware of the fact that all of your loved ones tolerate and accept this monstrous voice of yours and somehow that thought is humiliating.
What most of us miss in that moment is that voices we hear and connect with all of our loved ones are, just like ourselves, not the ones they believe they have. I’d guess that only on a few occasions have you found the voice of a friend or family member extremely irritating (maybe when your mom was nagging or your friend was talking about her jerk of a boyfriend for the hundredth time). Mostly though, you’ve never questioned these voices and how they sound. You simply see their voices as part and parcel of the entire package that makes up a particular person.
This is a great metaphor for getting perspective on ourselves. We are able to hyperfocus and zoom in on each thought we have and our behavior in the world. Since we’re viewing ourselves from inside ourselves, we’re unable to zoom out and get a wide view of who we are from the outside. Our loved ones, though, have no other perspective of us besides the entire package from the outside. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and people who nitpick and are critical. I’m talking about the people who you really love and those who really love you.
Thus, the unthinking acceptance that we feel and extend to our loved ones is, by and large, the same acceptance that our loved ones extend to us. You have the same unnoticed ability as others to be accepting.
The first question you encounter when you begin looking into modern and contemporary art is “What is art? Is this art?”. These questions are meant to begin a thought-provoking and complex discussion on what constitutes and qualifies as art. The range of opinions varies much wider than you might expect.
We’re often convinced of our own rightness, to a fault. Yes, there are right and wrong answers but humans, our lives, and the realities of the world are significantly more multi-colored and varied than our own opinions can account for.
In the yoga world, many people find it easy to be the gate-keepers of what is and isn’t yoga. This is generally based on the confidence of their own rightness. The Germans have their own question about art, “Ist das Kunst oder kann das weg?” (“Is this art or can it be thrown away?”). Though this applies to the art world, it also applies to the yoga world and many other situations.
Don’t throw it out and assume it’s wrong if you haven’t yet asked the appropriate questions and had a meaningful discussion or even taken a moment to consider what it is or isn’t.
We all make assumptions about the abilities and experiences of others, usually based on rather limited information. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re not. We form profound opinions of ourselves based on having watched every minute of our lives in real time, usually with little, helpful outside perspective. Again, sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re not. A mix of internal introspection and outside perspective can help us find the place in middle, the sweet spot, where things might be mostly right.