Have you ever judged someone and noticed that compassion for others left you in that moment of perhaps very poor judgment?
I actually have a book you can use to relieve yourself of the need to pass judgment on others as “idiots”. It’s for parents raising kids, but seriously, how many of us have actually grown up? It’s called “Raising Human Beings” by Dr. Ross W. Greene (I talk about it in a few of my blog posts on Blogger, Steemit, and Medium), and it offers a basic premise as the subject of departure: “Kids would do better if they could.”
When I see people behaving “like an idiot”, I set aside my desire to judge them for a moment, and consider the possibility that they lacked the capacity to do better. I use the words of Dr. Greene and suggest to myself that when someone exhibits challenging behavior, the person I’m observing lacked the capacity or skills to respond proactively to the demands of his or her environment. When kids “behave badly”, we can call it “challenging behavior” instead. When adults exhibit challenging behavior, we might call it a crime or a mistake, depending on the circumstances.
Once I started framing human behavior that I see in the context of a lack of skills to respond proactively to the demands of the environment, I began to see people in a whole new light. No longer do I take anything personally anymore. No longer do I feel the need to punish another for not getting it, whatever it was I wanted them to understand. With that realization came nearly infinite patience for people who simply lacked skills. Why?
Because now the motivation of others is not a factor. No longer do I have to read minds. I’m an optimist and assume ignorance before malice. I assume that people just want to be able to sleep at night, knowing they did the right thing. I assume that everyone is doing the best they can. I don’t worry if someone wanted to bug me.
When people are upset or angry with me, I let them be and talk to them until they calm down. Talking to someone tends requires the other person to set aside their feelings and to engage logic if they want to have a conversation. And I mean talking in a calm tone, acknowledging them, without reprisal.
I practice this with my kids when they’re upset. I allow them to be upset and talk with them, slowly. I make a point to be and to model calm to show them how to soothe themselves. As they learn to soothe themselves from their upset, they hear me talking and learn how to engage logic even after an upset.
This is how I practice the gentle art of persuasion and I’d do it for anyone I know who is in crisis. I do this not because this is how the world is, for much of the world I see is in crisis. I practice this habit because this is how I want the world to be. I’ve been practicing this for years and I am slowly turning it into fine art.
Anyway, I recommend that book, Raising Human Beings, to anyone, even if they don’t have kids. For me, it gave me something I didn’t expect to get: self-compassion. What I learned in that book gave me a greater capacity to see my own suffering and to have compassion for myself. And with compassion for myself, I gained a greater capacity to have compassion for others.
Originally published on Steemit.com, July 21st, 2017. Updated for context, grammar and new insights that arise on yet another editing pass.