You will increase your inner peace when you redirect your view of people from their weaknesses to their strengths. By focusing on their positive qualities and understanding the challenges they confront, your experience of people will transform.
Deepen your view of people’s behavior:
A. “My wife is being a witch.”
B. “My wife is a caring person, but must be exhausted. I should give her a hug and then give her some space to unwind.”
A. “My co-worker is an idiot.”
B. “My co-worker might be annoying sometimes, but he has a good heart. He probably is just trying too hard to be liked.”
A. “My whole life has been a series of mistakes.”
B. “My life is an adventure. I’m living and learning, and I have a lot of stories to tell.”
Focus on the positive:
That which you focus on tends to intensify. Therefore, it is more fulfilling and productive to focus on people’s good points than to focus on their limitations. “Stop being so miserable and rude!” engenders more malice than courtesy. Depending on the circumstances, it’s more productive and kind to say something like, “I’m sorry you’re so upset. I’ll give you some space. / Please try to be more polite to me—you’re pushing me away. / Is there something I can do to help you?”
Look for clues to explain unfortunate behavior in others. Also look for what is special or good about others. People respond much more positively when you approach them with compassion and appreciation for their good points.
Should I think positively about abusive behavior?
Unfortunately, there are people who are truly abusive or annoying beyond the occasional minor transgression. There is no reason you cannot be understanding AND keep a distance from such people. Being energetically reserved or in fact creating physical distance and creating boundaries will protect you from abusive behavior and from getting angry and holding a grudge. In serious cases you may have to completely avoid any interaction to move toward peace and fulfillment.
We are often most severely critical of ourselves. Thus, we need to become more understanding of our own less-than-perfect behavior and mistakes. It’s easier and more pleasant to improve ourselves when our self-criticism is reasonable, moderate, and balanced with an appreciation of what is good about ourselves. When we change the lens through which we view ourselves we also alter the way we view others, gaining compassion for all of humanity.
You can even view and express suffering with an eye for beauty. Just look at the great comedians and blues musicians.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD