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When we are born, we come into this world with a clean slate. There are no trust issues, hurt feelings, biases, or nastiness of any kind. These are all learned behaviors. We learn who we can and can’t trust based on life experiences. We learn who is hurtful, and who is not hurtful by the way others treat us. To be fair- everyone will hurt your feelings at one time or another- it is the intention behind it that informs us on how to take it. Bias is learned from our experiences, and often the environments we are raised in. Nastiness is something that we allow to take hold when we form opinions of people that we don’t really know or understand things that we have not experienced. Kindness is something we choose.
The last few years, nastiness has sort of become of state of being. Social media has become a place where we say whatever we are thinking- because there are no real immediate consequences. During family gatherings, we shame family members who think differently than we do. We “other” people who don’t believe the same way we do, and in turn we now have a fully hostile environment all the time.
As an Enneagram Nine, peacemaker personality, I have an ability to empathize with other people and their points of view. Even if I wholly disagree, I can listen and see where a person is coming from. This is not a tool that everyone has naturally, but if we do enough work on ourselves, we can begin to be more empathetic to others situations and lives. The downside to my personality type is that I fear conflict, whether perceived or real. Sometimes, I have trouble distinguishing between the two. My heart races and I get nervous anytime there might be a conflict.
This is why, I don’t often engage in hot topics, political talk, and why I rarely post anything controversial on the internet. I have no desire to argue, and I certainly don’t want to have to debate with someone over anything. For those of us with this personality type, it can often serve us well. But other times it can leave us feeling unheard and unimportant. We want to always be kind to others, but that can also leave us feeling silenced. So how can those of us who have many thoughts get our thoughts out without creating tension and conflict?
Here are a few tips.
- Ask Questions: When you are having a conversation about something and someone is talking about something that you disagree with or makes you uncomfortable, ask questions. What is it that has made you feel this way? Why do you believe that this is bad? How do you feel that this particular thing is hurting you or your family? Do you feel that this particular thing is hurtful to you and how? Have you taken a step back and tried to see it from another point of view?
- Listen to understand, not to formulate your response. This is hard for those of us with fear of conflict because we feel if we say something that we have to be able to back it up. Listen to their concerns. Before allowing your blood pressure to spike, wait to see what they have to say. You can say- No. Why do you ask? or Yes. Why do you ask? Say, well I can see that you are upset by this thing, but do you know what is making you feel this way? What is fueling your feelings? What experiences have you had that have formulated your feelings on this particular topic?
- Always believe the best in people, unless they prove us wrong. There will be times, when we know a person does not have good intentions or can be spiteful and hurtful. Sometimes we have to keep a distance. However, if we can try to believe the best about others it can change the way we see the world. Often, we have no concept of what is really going on in other peoples lives. Mostly because we are different than they are, our circumstances are different, and we don’t have the personal experience to get it.
- Stay out of the comment section. Repeat: STAY OUT OF THE COMMENT SECTION. Social media has led us to believe that we can say whatever comes to mind and put it out there for the world to see. It is usually best to ask ourselves a few quick questions before we speak or type. Is is kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Do we really need to send out a nasty PSA on Facebook? Do we really need to have a nasty comment about a situation that does not affect us at all? Do we have to have a strong, forceful opinion about everything? No. And we don’t have to take in others nonsensical rants either.
- Be kind. Remember the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.”? Well – we can’t always keep everything to ourselves, because sometimes we need to say something. So I will take it a step further. If we have to say something that is hard or uncomfortable- be ready to say it with kindness and love. Maybe we don’t say the thing in the middle of a heated argument- maybe we take a beat and come back when we are ready to talk with a clearer head. Articulation is key, and when we are pissed articulation is hard. So take a beat, and say what you need to say in a kinder and gentler way. We just might find it is much better received. Sometimes it won’t, but at least we know that we tried.
Finally, with this holiday season upon us, we can start to put some of this into practice. Be kinder. Be more loving. And when all else fails, it is OKAY to inwardly roll your eyes and move on with your life.