Lesson of the Week: How to respect your enemy.
OK, “enemy” is a strong word. I have this individual in my life, who I’ll call instead: “the Person I Must Show Respect to but Whose Choices I Disrespect.”
You might have such a person in your life, too. Someone you have to see on a regular basis and get along with. Someone you may even (gasp) work for.
A few weeks ago, PIMSRTBWCID recently made me the “offer” to listen to my thoughts on an unexpected decision that ended up overriding some hard work that I and others had done. This is an actual snippet of the conversation:
PIMSRTBWCID: “Elisa, please tell me how you’re feeling.”
Elisa: (opening my mouth to have a conversation with this person for the first time in months) “I feel really confused because….”
PIMSRTBWCID: (cutting me off mid-sentence) “You’re just acting closed-minded. I can’t believe I’m saying this to you. You’re just not taking any critiques.”
Elisa: (stunned into silence for the rest of the conversation)
In the rest of this “conversation,” aka: “diatribe,” from PIMSRTBWCID, I deciphered that someone had preemptively beaten me to PIMSRTBWCID and whispered rumors in their ear. Some of PIMSRTBWCID’s accusations involved places and events I had never even been part of.
Inside, I was horrified. On the outside, I nodded and acted like a good listener. I stayed silent. I walked away.
Then, I went home and didn’t sleep for 3 days straight.
All weekend, I tossed and turned instead of resting. I replayed the conversation over and over in my mind. The 101 imaginary endings to our conversation were way better than what I actually did. In my imagination, I stomped away, shouted “You’re crazy!” or told the PIMSRTBWCID exactly what I thought of their statements using phrases involving words like “leprous” and “testicles.”
The next week, I avoided PIMSRTBWCID like they were a sniper and I was their victim.
As of a few days ago, the PIMSRTBWCID is back to treating me normally. That’s to say: they’re not steamrolling over me with their accusations and fake offers to “listen.”
What am I supposed to do? Mostly, I am trying to figure out how to smile and wave back at them without hating myself for being such a fake fraud.
Recently, I read the Yoga Sutra. The Sutras present the philosophy of going after happiness by “Replacing a negative thought with its opposite.”
I guess the best corresponding Western expression would be, “Seeing a glass of milk as half full, not half empty.”
Since I have to interact with PIMSRTBWCID on a semi-regular basis, I thought: what do I have to lose? Maybe this is my opportunity to test out this philosophy.
So, here is my trial run for this life lesson……..
My Negative Thought #1: PIMSRTBWCID invents lies about others to make a point that suits their needs.
My Replacement: This person cares a lot about their goals and will strive hard to achieve them.
My Negative Thought #2: PIMSRTBWCID buys into every rumor they hear.
My Replacement: This person listens carefully to others.
My Negative Thought #3: PIMSRTBWCID dumps their crap on others without thinking about how they are damaging their relationships.
My Replacement: This person feels comfortable with me.
My Negative Thought #4: PIMSRTBWCID doesn’t care about treating people well.
My Replacement: This person cares about their vision for the world, which involves helping others.
I saw this person this morning after a week of practicing this Sutra, “Replacement of a negative thought with its opposite.”
This is what our conversation sounded like:
Person I’m Trying to Change My Opinion About: What do you think about this idea we had?
Me: I think it sounds interesting.
Person: Great, I’m going to move ahead with it.
Me: (Nods and smiles faintly)
I realized after this unremarkable moment that I could live with our relationship.
Do I have a mountain of respect for this person? No. Will we ever become best friends? No, not unless an unforeseen miracle happens. Does this person respect me? It doesn’t matter so much to me, but if I can stay out of their way and act respectfully, they probably will.
But most importantly, I can let go of my anger in a situation I cannot change. That is, if I work at it, I can let go of my negativity.
Finally, no matter how things pan out with this person…. at least I’ll be able to sleep at night.
What do other people do when they don’t get along with someone, but have to see them all the time?
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