How we see others determines our experience of them. Whether it’s students, colleagues, spouses, kids, parents, or anyone else, our interactions with others are guided by how we see them.
How we see others is so much less about who they are than it is about what we think of them. Our judgments, expectations, insecurities, fears, and memories - these are the things we engage with when we think we’re engaging with another person.
This is a really good mechanism that we’ve evolved! As an effective strategy to be safe, we judge others, we judge ourselves, and we judge situations.
But we live in a time where most of us don’t need to be on guard nearly as much as we are. Consequently, we’re not as happy, fulfilled, or effective in our relationships as we could be.
I’m a more positive and understanding teacher when I let down the guards and trust myself in the moment. I’m a more generous and compassionate father when I let loose the defenses. I’m a more loving and supporting spouse when I relax into trust. And I’m able to do all those things when I take as truth that there’s dignity, beauty, wholeness, and light within each of my students, colleagues, family members, and others.
Here is a process available to help us open up even in those times where the defenses cloud our vision and put space between us and others. It’s starts when we’re in a place of calm relaxation:
First, get committed. Get committed to being present and engaged with the people actually in front of us. Get committed to honoring the light within others just as we’d like them to honor the light within us. Without a commitment or an intention, we’re leaving our being up to chance or our momentary and conditioned emotions and thoughts.
Second, pick a place to stand - compassion, support, generosity, ease, creativity, fun, or whatever. Pick a couple words that will remind you of the profound opportunity it is to engage with another. Pick a couple words that will be a gift to you and others.
Third, trust your insight. Trust that the intelligence that guided you to pick these particular words won’t let you down. Trust that you’ll thrive in the face of anything that arises, so long as you continue to stand where you’ve chosen to stand out of inspiration, creativity, and generosity.
Finally, check in with a friend or coach. Reflect on your experiences with curiosity. Notice where the safety mechanism caught you or where you successfully navigated challenging thoughts or feelings. Acknowledge the wins, the setbacks, and the growth.
You see, we’re always standing somewhere. If it’s not a place that we’ve consciously picked for ourselves, then it’s a default place selected unconsciously by our powerful mechanism to survive.
Our survival mechanisms are great, but they limit our capacity to experience love, joy, and insight. Additionally, the people in our lives are deserving of so much more than we give them when we’re mostly looking out for ourselves.
Let’s live intentionally, give our attention generously, and love creatively in our relationships.
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️