Latest update: August 15th, 2013
But what if we could replace this critic with a more compassionate voice that reassures us when our vulnerabilities are being exposed? As Dr. Dovid Lieberman, author of Seek Peace And Pursue It: Proven Strategies To Resolve Conflicts In Relationships, has noted:
“Accepting who we are is not the same as approving of our mistakes. When we accept ourselves, we embrace the truth of our imperfection. To see oneself as less than perfect is honest and healthy. Insisting that we are perfect is dishonest and healthy.
“The dual themes of acceptance and approval exist in our relationships as well. We often confuse acceptance and approval, where if we do not approve of another’s actions, we cannot accept him. This erroneous thinking not only negates the concept of unconditional love, and results in strained relationships, but also impairs our ability to accept ourselves—faults and all.”
6. I Will Treat Others With Respect And Compassion.
By being in touch with our own humanity and being sympathetic to our own vulnerabilities, we are in a position to extend that gift to others, even if we disagree with them on a particular issue. A key component in doing so is discussed in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
“Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel…
“Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart…You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul…
“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.
“The need for psychological air impacts communication in every area of life.”
7. I Will Seek To Understand Another’s Point Of View Even When I Think It’s Wrong.
Sometimes our ego is so consumed with the truth of its position, there is little room to truly appreciate another’s perspective. The idea of creating space for such a perspective can be threatening. Perhaps we believe that entertaining such ideas will somehow take away from our argument and strengthen the position of our ideological adversary. Or maybe we’re afraid that we ourselves will be “taken in” by a position with which we strongly disagree.
But of course, understanding is different than accepting or agreeing with a point of view. I can believe that the death penalty is immoral, but still articulate why others would feel differently. I can see a business proposal as foolhardy, yet still come to understand why the person suggesting it could support it. Ironically, when the other party sees that he is really being heard, he can then respond in kind.
The result can save each party wasted time and energy trying to convince the other person why he or she is “wrong.” As Rabbi Pliskin humorously puts it:
“When you find yourself in a conflict with someone, focus on finding solutions. This is in contrast to thinking and speaking in terms of blaming…The person on the receiving end of this blaming rarely responds: ‘You’re right. It’s all my fault. I’ll act better from now on.’ ‘My negative traits are truly negative. I’ll work on refining my character and then the root will be taken care of and we’ll get along.’ ‘…I’ll switch my entire way of thinking, speaking and acting to the way that you do and then we’ll have peace’…Whenever you find yourself in a conflict, ask yourself, ‘What can I say or do that might be a solution to the problem?’” 8. I Will Be Sensitive To My State Of Mind And That Of Others Before Discussing A Contentious Issue.
At the end of a heated argument where hurtful words are said, one or both parties may seek to make amends by explaining that they were under stress, deprived of sleep or simply in a bad mood. The recipient of our anger may say they understand, but often the damage done is not so easily repaired. In retrospect, a simple delay in dealing with an issue could have avoided such harm. Except for time-sensitive emergencies, waiting until a time when both parties are in a better emotional state will have a positive impact that supercedes whatever value could be obtained by discussing something in the moment.
About the Author: Gary Tolchinsky works at a consulting firm in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School, where he studied mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He is on the Advisory Board of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and is founder of the website jewishbooksforpeace.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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