I like people just fine, I suppose. Just not people I don't personally choose to interact with. The difficult people. We all have them in our lives, those difficult people. Some of us learn to stop inviting those people into our lives. Some people are drama addicts and need those people in their lives. Sometimes those people are our family members, so we learn to deal with them in one way or another (usually using one of those childhood coping mechanisms that stay with us way past their effective use-by date). At least it's possible to manage those situations and people if you put some time and effort into it. If you are managing these well, it's the peripheral people, like the cranky neighbor or the road rager or the co-worker that are your main source of difficult people. In these situations, we must find ways to cope and manage ourselves (NOT the other person).
I believe difficult people are placed in our lives to teach us about ourselves. When I read The Four Agreements many years ago, the one lesson that stood out the most to me was "Don't Take Anything Personally". Nothing anybody does is because of you. That lesson is at once incredibly simple to understand and incredibly difficult to master. It's also the key to managing difficult people. How other people treat you has nothing to do with you and how you treat other people has nothing to do with them. Kind of puts my behavior toward difficult people in a new light. I can raise the stakes with my neighbor by telling him what I really think or I can be gracious and steadfast in not letting his behavior influence my own. I can honk back at the driver who wanted me to hurry across an intersection or smile and wave. I can gripe and complain about stuff I see on social media or I can absorb the lesson from The Four Agreements and either hide them or respond in a way that demonstrates my own character. What I can NEVER do is blame someone else for the way I act.
This is on my mind today because I heard this amazing quote on my drive home:
People react to you at the level of their own awareness.
THAT is a true statement right there! Man, I had to stop and look out the window for a minute after writing it down. To me it is so powerful that it just needs to be absorbed a little bit every time I write it. I immediately thought of some examples where someone's reaction to me demonstrated their own lack of awareness of themselves. I have a family member that continually demonstrated this lesson over many years. I finally stopped experiencing the lesson and learned it one day and haven't talked to that person since. It's freeing to realize that that person we reacting at the level of their awareness. It makes sense. It makes the world seem a bit more logical. It's a relief!
It's certainly easy to see how others have demonstrated this to us. After all, it's really just saying "haters gonna hate", right? But the flip side is this:
I react to people at the level of my own awareness.
Now what? Now it's time to think of myself and some examples of when I have reacted to other people in a way that showed a lack of awareness of myself. I yell at the driver honking at me, I complain about people yet continue to read their nonsense on Facebook, I get defensive and stop listening to my partner. I try to fix the other person instead of fixing myself. That clearly reflects a lack of awareness on my part.
It's easy to say these things and easy to believe these things. The hard part is living these things when it's difficult, when you want to yell at the neighbor and you want to let that person know what an idiot they are and you want to feel righteous indignation and you want to be right. These are our opportunities. Every time you turn a challenge into an opportunity, you win. I want the difficult neighbor to live with his difficulty, not me. So I need to stop inviting it to affect me and let it go. I need to fix what I can fix and move on. Righteous indignation is a poison I give myself. Look inward.