There was a time when I would get into an argument with someone and more often than not, I would end up feeling righteously indignant. “How dare they accuse me of such a thing!” “So rude!” “I didn’t do anything!” “What about what YOU did!” “I can’t believe you said that!” And so on. Along the way, though, I’ve learned that sure, sometimes people can act defensively and come off like insensitive jerks, but sometimes they are defensive because I have accidentally (or not-so-accidentally) pushed a button. Nowadays, if I find myself in an argument or conflict, I have learned to take a moment, think about why someone is reacting to me in an extreme, accusatory or attacking way, and take responsibility for my role in it. Yes, there will be times when I truly didn’t do anything “wrong”, but those moments are rare. More often than not, I do have a part to play in the discord and drama. Until we can master the art of being self-reflective in the moment, we are prone to blame others for the conflicts in which we find ourselves. One way to practice self reflection in the moment is to take a deep breath in the midst of an argument, disagreement, conflict or relational rupture and simply ask ourselves “what did I do”? And then answer that question with honesty and integrity. This will shift the trajectory of external blame and projection that so often befalls us when are in the thick of it with someone else.
During this holidays season, when there are so many opportunities for hurt feelings, stepped on toes, disappointments, fatigue, family dramas and emotional meltdowns, why not try a new tact in your interactions with friends and family. Give the gift of foregoing righteous indignation and instead, offer up personal responsibility and compassion. So much more meaningful than a fruit cake that will get tossed in the trash or a tchotchke that will get re-gifted.
Until next time, peace.