How often do we expect other people to know what we know? And then when they demonstrate they don’t, we act as if the other person is somehow wrong?
This happens in a variety of relationships – significant other, friend, family, customers, strangers etc. And I suspect, like me, you’ve had experiences from both sides of this scenario. When we are the one with the expectation placed upon us, we often become quite self-righteous, as if we’ve never behaved in that manner. When we are the one with the expectation and make it about the other person, I believe it is because of our own insecurities. What if we responded differently in these types of situations?
On a recent walk; in a neighborhood a block away; I experienced the opportunity to practice. I was walking on the sidewalk and noticed activity at the house across the street. One woman was at the side of a car in the driveway. Another woman and a dog were exiting the house. Suddenly I realized the dog – a very large dog – was galloping toward me. Both women seemed unaware of the dog leaving the property. This caused me to stop in my tracks and loudly request, “Please call your dog. Please call your dog.”
Either of the women may have spoken, I however was focused on the dog – the very large dog, now standing at my side. That’s when the owner seemed to realize what happened and said, “He’s friendly, completely harmless.”
“Oh,” I replied, “I wasn’t sure.”
That’s when I heard a defensive response, “I wouldn’t let him loose if he wasn’t friendly. That would be irresponsible.” At that point she called the dog home and I went on my way.
As I continued my walk I reflected on a number of considerations. How would I know her dog is friendly? It was a given to her, but how would someone who doesn’t know her, or her dog, possibly know what she knows? Remember the dog is a very large dog. If he jumped (as many dogs do) I’d easily be knocked to the ground – and in hindsight I suspect the dog saw me as a possible playmate. Also; and to me this is the real gift of the situation; I recognized, if the roles were reversed I could have easily responded the way she did. In fact, I know I have in the past. How about you? And, how often do we forget a person’s question is a reflection of them, not ourselves? WOW – what an eye-opener!
In the past I would have been agitated to some degree by the woman and her dog’s behavior. Then I would justify stewing about the situation for some time. And of course, tell many people to gather evidence of how right I was and more importantly, how wrong she was. Ever been in that vicious cycle? What does that help? Nothing in my experience, yet without a conscious commitment to self-improvement that’s what often results.
Phew! Fortunately, for this time, the rest of my walk remained uneventful and enjoyable. Gratitude overcame me, both for my safety and for having maintained my composure instead of arguing and having to be right. A sense of appreciation followed, for the ability to understand her response and avoid judging her. Compassion, as I recognized my ability to demonstrate the same behavior.
Imagine if major issues for you simply became blips in your day? Imagine too, turning your blips into eye-opening experiences for yourself? What issue in your day could you covert into a blip? What eye-opener have you overlooked by focusing on the blip instead of the message?
And then imagine, simultaneously, letting go of what the other person’s lesson is in the situation?
Now, what does your world look like?