The Best Advice that’s Hard to Follow
I know you’ve heard this many times, but I’ve found it hard to remember and difficult to apply – “The one person you can control is yourself.” Accepting other people as they are is easy when they are nice to us and agree with us, but when they don’t behave, think or feel the way WE THINK they should, it can drive us crazy and cause many problems in our relationships. We believe THEY should change to match OUR expectations.
What if WE changed the way we thought about these challenging interactions? Instead of getting frustrated, we could –
- remember that no one is perfect, including us.
- recognize this person has many good traits and may have some we don’t have.
- consider that interacting with people with different perspectives than us can teach us patience and tolerance.
- realize that we don’t know what other things may be causing them to be stressed or upset.
- appreciate that we may not know their history, ways they have been hurt, or what the little voice in their head is telling them.
I’m not saying we can’t influence people, but that usually requires building a relationship based on trust first and modeling the behavior we would like to see.
There’s a story of a great spiritual teacher that traveled the countryside visiting the different villages with his entourage of helpers. One of these helpers was a very grouchy cook. When people asked the teacher why he kept such an ornery grump around, he would say “He is my teacher.”
How would our lives (and even the world) be better if people would work on changing how they reacted to others instead of trying to change others? That doesn’t mean we have to agree with or condone their actions. It means investing our energy in the one person we can change.
After giving one of my talks, a gentleman handed me a card that read –
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
Courage to change the one I can,
And the wisdom to know it’s me.
Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge. She uses science to help people shift the way they think so they can achieve more success in their work and in their lives.