Acknowledgement for this blog to Jen Picicci -Tiny Buddha- A great website, check it out
A few years ago, my husband was away from me for a few weeks, working in another town. It was summer, and we were living close to the beach at the time, so I often spent my Saturday nights walking along the ocean at sunset, enjoying the colors and sounds.
One Saturday night I was in a simply glorious mood. The beach was filled with happy families and couples, the Atlantic was a particularly lovely shade of aquamarine, and life felt just about perfect.
When I got back to my car I looked at my cell phone and saw that I had missed a call from my husband. I called him back and quickly realized his mood was not nearly as buoyant as my own: He wasn’t particularly chatty, and seemed pretty negative about the work he was doing.
I took this extremely personally and turned cold and quiet almost immediately, eventually taking the very juvenile step of hanging up on him. How dare he ruin my perfect summer evening!?
About ten minutes later, in the parking lot of a grocery store, I had a huge epiphany: He hadn’t ruined anything. It was all me, as my negative feelings were entirely created by my expectations of how he should have behaved.
I had been anticipating that he would be in the same great mood I was, and when he wasn’t, I took it personally. I became upset that he wasn’t acting as I expected. I became angry because he wasn’t meeting the standards I had set.
In other words, I was completely responsible for my deflated mood.
This was the very first time I realized how having expectations of how other people should act was causing unnecessary pain and suffering in my life. Once I started looking around, though, I saw many other examples.
For instance, I once had the expectation that a new acquaintance would quickly respond to my text and agree that she, too, had a nice time hanging out with me.
When she didn’t, I ended up spending more than twenty-four hours wondering if she liked me, feeling pretty bad about myself. (She did eventually respond with a very nice text; she’s just a busy person who doesn’t respond to texts immediately!)
I expected an automatic response, and not getting one undermined my happiness.
Another example is the time I was seventeen and gave my dad a Father’s Day card I thought he’d find really funny, and he barely even responded to it at all.
I had built up a vision of him having a really warm and amused reception to this card, and when there was almost zero reaction, I was crushed. Again, my expectations, and the beliefs about what it meant if they weren’t met, were causing pain.
Before you think that I’m suggesting you lower your expectations of other people and never, ask anything of anyone, let me clarify a bit.
Telling a friend about a tough situation at home and expecting you’ll get some words of wisdom is wonderful. Hoping the guy whose eye you’ve been trying to catch will smile at you today can be fun and rewarding.
Hoping for the outcome you desire is one thing, trying to force it and being overrun with negative thoughts and feelings when it doesn’t work out is another.
You can’t control the way people think, feel, or react. Ever. You may try to, you may want to, but ultimately, how they act is up to them.
And when you base your feelings of happiness, worth, or confidence on the actions or reactions of other people, you’re setting yourself up for many moments (or days or even years) of avoidable misery.
There are a few ways to keep hoping for positive interactions with other people, but not get sucked down into the mud and muck when they don’t go as you expect.
1. Stop expecting other people to act exactly as you would like them to—it’s a game you’re guaranteed to lose. Instead, try being open to any and all reactions from others.
2. Start building up your own happiness and confidence on something you do have power over: your thoughts and beliefs.When someone does the unexpected and it disappoints you, it’s always because you had a belief about what they were supposed to do.
3. Stay in the moment as often as you can.Stay present with your thoughts, and see if you’re holding onto expectations of how other people should behave.
It’s when you slip out of being in the now that you are truly disappointed. When this happens, you’re letting your thoughts and stories about what the other person should have done, or what will happen now because of this perceived slight, or why you deserve to be angry, take you out of the now and down a path that is full of rejection and fear.
The bottom line is that you will not find peace if you’re always expecting other people to give it to you with their actions or words or even love. The only way to find it is to drop your expectations of others, let go of what you think they should or shouldn’t do, and allow yourself to create your own happiness.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” ~Bruce Lee
Here's the next tip for maintaining peaceful, loving relationships:-
Think before acting on emotion. This one is the hardest for me. As soon as I feel hurt, frustrated, or angry, I want to do something with it—which is always a bad idea. I’ve realized my initial emotional reaction does not always reflect how I really feel about something. Initially, I might feel scared or angry, but once I calm down and think things through, I often realize I overreacted.
When you feel a strong emotion, try to sit it for a while. Don’t use it or run from it—just feel it. When you learn to observe your feelings before acting on them, you minimize the negativity you create in two ways: you process, analyze, and deal with feelings before putting them on someone else; and you communicate in a way that inspires them to stay open instead of shutting down.
“If you keep your feathers well oiled the water of criticism will run off as from a duck’s back.” ~Ellen Swallow Richards
We all seek love, approval, and appreciation, don’t we? We sometimes obsess over what people think of us. When we receive feedback that seems less than favorable, we speculate for days about what it might mean.
Usually we attach the wrong meaning to it, and this drains our energy and might even cause us to withdraw and quit what we are doing.
Is there a way to avoid this? How can we keep our feathers well oiled?
Here is what happened to one person and what she learned from it:-
I was working in HR in a big institution with more than 7,000 employees and hundreds of different departments. I was asked by my hierarchy to coordinate with several departments to accommodate the varied needs of colleagues with disabilities, as it required special workplace adaptation and much more.
With more than ten different departments involved in the project, there was a clear need for coordination, but not a clear mandate in my job description. But it didn’t seem to be a problem, and the departments involved were happy that somebody took the role.
Until one evening, after work, I opened my inbox and there it was, an email from a colleague, sent out to the entire mailing list of colleagues and departments involved in the project.
It was the head of one of the departments telling me that with the coordination work I’d done, I’d cause problems for him (without providing further specification). He instructed me to stop, and in an ironic tone he wrote that my talents and help would surely be better used in other projects.
I responded immediately, “Sorry. Okay, then I will not do the coordination.” I felt crushed, small, and incredibly hurt.
But was it really the criticism that stopped me?
Probably not, since there were three other supportive emails sent out to the entire list, from people working on the project, who happened to be high in the hierarchy.
When I looked inside myself, some months after the incident happened, I discovered that it wasn’t the criticism but my own interpretation of it that stopped me.
The criticism was feeding my own limiting beliefs.
How often do we receive criticism and it doesn’t touch us, sometimes we don’t even notice it? When there are no self-beliefs for the insult to hook into, it rolls off like a raindrop on our raincoat. But when deep down we hold limiting beliefs, the criticism arouses them.
“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle
If we do something we will be criticized, and we cannot do anything about it.
Thinking “he shouldn’t criticize me” will stop the other person. It is hopeless. All it does is it harms us.
Instead of blaming the one who is criticizing us, it is better to focus on the one person we do have control over: ourselves.
Look inside, discover the beliefs that caused the criticism to stick, and begin to undo them. So the next time when we receive similar criticism it rolls right off, like the raindrop on our raincoat.
Not sure how to discover your own limiting beliefs? Here’s how:
Finish the following statement: “Someone has criticized me, and that means…”
What came up for me was: “I am inadequate; I do not fit in; I am not fit for the institutional power games.”
I was quite surprised to be confronted with these limiting beliefs.
What is it for you? What beliefs did you discover?
The next step is to question those thoughts with the help of The Work by Byron Katie. It consists of four questions and turnarounds, which are the opposite of the initial thought.
It is important to do this inquiry having a concrete situation in mind. So my situation is: I’m reading the email, which states that I caused problems and it would be better for me to use my talents and help in other projects.
If you like you can question the belief about yourself that you just discovered. Answer these questions along with me, keeping in mind your situation.
1. I am inadequate. Is it true? Yes.
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true? No.
Just notice how it feels to express an honest “yes” or a “no” as an answer to these two questions. There are no right or wrong answers here; it’s about discovering what is true for us. And just notice how your mind wanders: “Yes, because…“ or “No, but…“
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? There I am reading the email that states that I caused problems and I would better use my talents and help in other projects. How do I react, what happens when I believe the thought that I am inadequate?
I make myself small. I hit reply and I answer, “Sorry. Okay, then I will not do the coordination.” I feel crushed and incredibly hurt. I am afraid what others who read that email will say. I picture a catastrophe.
4. Who would you be without the thought? Who would I be without the thought that I am inadequate? What would I do, feel, or say if I could not think the thought that I am inadequate?
I would be curious what makes my colleague think that I am causing his problems. I would ask him to meet me so that I could understand. I would entertain the possibility that there was just a misunderstanding. I would not disregard the supportive emails I received from others. In fact, I would give much more credit to them. I would be much calmer. I would be genuinely curious about what went wrong without blaming myself.
The turnaround would be: I am very capable at my job.
The turnaround opens us up to the possibility that the opposite of our thought feels as true or even truer than the initial one. Examples to the turnaround statement broaden our vision and help us see reality in its complexity.
So how can that it be true that I am very capable at my job?
– The three supportive emails I received from colleagues confirm that I am very capable at my job.
– My work has always been appreciated in the previous years.
So what was the problem in the first place? The criticism, or my deeply rooted belief that I am inadequate?
It was the belief, wasn’t it?
“If you keep your feathers well oiled the water of criticism will run off as from a duck’s back.” ~Ellen Swallow Richards
The next time you feel hurt by criticism, look for the underlying limiting belief and question it This is how we keep our feathers well oiled.
One day you might even find yourself grateful for criticism and the opportunity it presents to look inside, and better yourself.
Acknowledgement to Esther Millar ( published on Tiny Buddha website Aug 2015)
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. There are all kinds of ways you can feel vulnerable in relationships: When you express your feelings for someone else. When you’re honest about yourself or your past. When you admit you made a mistake. We don’t always do these things because we want to maintain a sense of power.
Power allows us a superficial sense of control, whereas true, vulnerable being allows us a sense of authenticity. That’s love: being your true self and allowing someone else to do the same without letting fear and judgment tear it down. It’s like Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”
Confront compassionately and clearly.
When you attack someone, their natural instinct is to get defensive, which gets you nowhere. You end up having a loud conversation where two people do their best to prove they’re right and the other one is wrong. It’s rarely that black and white. It’s more likely you both have points, but you’re both too stubborn to meet in the middle.
If you approach someone with compassion, you will open their hearts and minds. Show them you understand where they’re coming from, and they’ll be willing to see your side. That gives you a chance to express yourself and your expectations clearly. And when you let people know what you need at the right time in the right way, they’re more likely to give that to you.
Choose your battles.
Everyone knows someone who makes everything a fight. If you question them about something, you can expect an argument. If you comment on something they did, you’ll probably get yelled at. Even a compliment could create a confrontation. Some people just like to fight—maybe to channel negativity they’re carrying around about the world or themselves.
On the one hand, you have to tell people when there’s something bothering you. That’s the only way to address problems. On the other hand, you don’t have to let everything bother you. When I’m not sure if I need to bring something up, I ask myself these few questions: