We have all been there, at a social setting, crossing paths with a person who has distinctly strong opinions quite different from our own. I imagine if you are the open-minded kind and reading a blog post on tut.com, you have compassion and wisdom to spare when it comes to acceptance of others with differing views. However, when this is someone you see on a fairly regular basis and their constant opinion causes you repeated distress, it is time to take some action.
What exactly can you do? Here are some ways to help you come to peaceable terms with a challenging someone in your life.
1. Offer a comment on commonality or appreciation for their passion.
Let them have their say and then, say something like, “I respect that you want a better America, we all do.” Or, “It’s nice to know someone who has such deep caring for what they believe.” I’ve used comments like these in the past and have had good success, but only initially. If it is someone I see on a continual basis, then I have to move on to other coping strategies.
2. Respect the other person’s journey.
Every person has travelled a long, winding road to get to the present moment. We can never know a person’s path and why they believe what they believe. Similarly, they can never know all the nuances and life experiences which have led us to our perspective. By looking at the bigger picture, the threads of compassion begin to show themselves. Grab those threads and hold on as tightly as you can.
3. Set limits when you are able.
Limit your interactions with this person. Stay home, make other plans or politely excuse yourself. Inevitably, there will be times the person cannot be avoided, so giving yourself a break when possible will help you manage the dynamic better when you do spend time with them.
4. It’s okay to lose your cool sometimes.
Face it, there will be times when keeping quiet and taking the high road will not be possible. You are human. Make some space for those kinds of moments, acknowledge them and learn from them. If you reached your breaking point, what could you have done differently? Could you have left earlier? Could you have moved to another room? Was changing the topic of the conversation a possibility? All things to consider for future encounters.
5. Take a breath before you respond.
When someone says something reactionary, the egoic response we feel is usually the first thought that pops in our head. Fortunately, we are more than our egos and if we pause, allowing a deep breath to enter and leave our bodies, it helps us connect to the wisdom of our soul. This wisdom’s intention is not for us to agree with someone when we do not, but instead, it offers us a way to keep the peace when we are with this person. There is so much respite available within us, all we have to do is make the choice to access it through a conscious breath.
6. This is not a test, this is an opportunity.
It is easy to access our loving-kindness when we are alone. It is harder to remember when we are out in the world, and harder yet when faced with a disagreeable person. It takes courage and practice, lots and lots of practice, to access our loving-kindness when we are under stress. The challenging people in our lives are giving us constant invitations to find our truest heart and our deepest compassion. In a wonderfully strange way, they are offering us the ultimate spiritual gift of learning loving-kindness in all circumstances.
Remember, every day is a chance to start once more, every interaction is an opportunity to grow, and loving-kindness is the ultimate beacon of light that unites us all.