Choose to be amused, curious, bewildered about people’s behavior – and not bitter!
“Why can’t some people understand us? No matter what we say or do, why is there only an effort to misunderstand by them,” asked a reader on FB Messenger yesterday.
My answer: “Such is Life. That’s just the way some people are.”
Indeed. I see no other explanation for the way some people behave. In fact, personally, I have even reached a stage when I don’t even want to understand – or explain – why some people behave the way they do. Ultimately, everyone does what they think is right. If they thought otherwise, they would not be doing what they are doing! Simple.
The other day, members of my estranged, fractious, family were trying to reach me for a reason. I was preoccupied for a while and so I did not respond immediately to any of them. But the number of messages they pounded me with on WhatsApp, SMS, FB Messenger, e-mail, the number of calls they made, and the tone of their messages indicated that they felt I was deliberately avoiding them. We haven’t been in touch for several years now. Nothing much has changed in the equation among us. But to assume, within an hour of sending someone a message, or after calling them, that they are avoiding you, I believe is being, unfortunately, judgmental.
I wasn’t angry with the tone my family employed. I was amused. And I guess that’s a good way to deal with people that don’t understand you or perhaps that don’t want to understand you. Respond with amusement, not anger. If you look at it objectively, people know what they are doing. If they are saying something nasty about you, or to you, or if they are doing something irrational, illogical, unkind and unjust to you, they are doing it only because they want to do it. I have realized that you can’t stop someone who’s determined to do what they want to do. So, I just let them be. I live in the comfort that the opinions they hold of me, the way they choose to express themselves to me and their actions cannot affect my inner peace.
Actually, it is equally fascinating to see how different people look at the same situation or at the same person differently. This variety makes for an interesting study of human behavior. I am eternally curious to see how people imagine or think up plots, sub-plots, theories and conspiracies in plain, mundane situations. Without such colorful imagination, I believe, Life will be boring. So, I have learnt to let people’s machinations and manipulations, their interpretations and misuderstandings, keep me entertained. I don’t crave for being understood anymore. If they are choosing to be the way they are, it is only appropriate that I remain the way I must really be – unruffled, curious, bewildered, and never bitter!
You can choose to be in a state of equanimity – anytime, in any context!
In response to my blogpost of yesterday, a reader wrote to me saying, “An employee who is rejected by an employer can perhaps move on and seek employment elsewhere. But what does someone do when your family rejects you?”
From personal experience I can tell you that it is not as difficult as it sounds to move on in the context of family or very close personal relationships. The opportunity to be free, liberated and live happily is available to anyone in any situation, regardless of whether the context is personal or professional. You grieve, and therefore you suffer, only because you are clinging on to what has happened. Someone has rejected you, someone has an opinion of you which is not fully based on facts, they have delivered their judgment. If you examine the situation closely, they have moved on. You are the one who is clinging on, pining and suffering, wondering why things are the way they are. But the truth is things already are – they have come to a pass; the words have been spilled, you have been hurt, now what is the point in going on lamenting about it?
When my family called me a cheat and accused me and Vaani of faking a bankruptcy, for the longest time I grieved. I could not accept my new reality that I have been judged by my own mother and siblings. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal.) I felt devastated that I could not prove to them why their perceptions were wrong. But then, I realized, if they had genuinely wanted to understand us, they would never have doubted our integrity, no matter what perceptional evidence was stacked up against me and Vaani. Soon I saw the futility in trying to convince them of my integrity. I concluded that they don’t trust me – that’s their choice. So, I simply moved on. While I remain accountable to them on the monies I owe them, just as I am with all our other creditors, I have no inclination to discuss or settle any other matters with them. I don’t see it as necessary. And I have no angst, no hurt, no grief in me. Not anymore.
I am not saying my way is the only way of doing things in close relationships when, unfortunately, mistrust, judgment, opinion and rejection come into play. All I can tell you is that I am anchored, I am at peace – because I don’t expect anything anymore from my family. If anything, in fact, on a material plane, I feel responsible towards them.
No situation is difficult to deal with or complex enough to handle as long as you have clarity on what you want. If inner peace is what you want, then some clear, tough calls have to be taken. If you want to wallow in self-pity and flaunt your suffering, then of course, you have a different choice to make. I, for one, believe this state of equanimity is possible for anyone, anytime, in any context – you just have to choose to be non-suffering. Anything – or anyone – that causes your suffering, just weed them out!
When there’s no one to be touched, you will never be feel hurt, insulted or betrayed!
I am intently following L’Affaire Mistry @ Tata. Every time Cyrus Mistry retorts through the media, I can feel his pain. Vaani and I know what it means to be dropped high and dry, like a hot potato. About 11 years ago, the head of our Bengaluru operations migrated to a rival company en masse with our entire Bengaluru team. I took this purely business-related development personally. I was so hurt, I was suffering so much that I took a flight to Mumbai, barged into the office of the rival company, met its co-founders and demanded an explanation from them. While the conversation with them helped to the extent that I shared how I felt, as an entrepreneur, as a professional, as a human being, when I reflect upon it now, I realize it served so purpose by way of closure. It was just a knee-jerk emotional response from me. Perhaps banal I talk about this episode and how cathartic it was for me personally in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. bravado. Yes, of course, I learnt something from that experience – I learnt the power of forgiveness. I talk about this episode and how cathartic it was for me personally in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. I also learnt that you really must not expect fairplay from people and in Life. Because people do what they do because they think, and often also believe, that what they are doing is right. And Life never promised any fairplay nor does Life answer any questions.
I have realized that when you are hurt, offended, insulted or cheated by someone, you can let the hurt pass and ignore the whole happening or you can let the hurt pass and fight the issue or you can cling on to the hurt and also fight rabidly for what you believe is right. I have, since that episode in my Bengaluru office from 2005, learnt that letting the hurt pass and ignoring the whole episode is the best option. You may not want to agree with it. But this is what I prefer doing. If I must fight at all, I will prefer fighting the issue than invest my energies in avenging an insult.
If you reflect on Life, you will discover that whenever you feel hurt at what someone tells you, or does to you, it is your ego which is acting up. You question, often bitterly, why someone has behaved in a manner that you don’t endorse. Your ego instigates you to fight back, to avenge that behavior, instead of constructively confronting the issue. And then the drama begins. You tell the person something harsh. That person retaliates. Then you must say something in return. And on, and on, this game of ping-pong goes on. Or in situations when you are unable to retort or get even, you suffer within. You carry the injury, the wound from the hurt, all the while. Your ego keeps reminding you of how unfairly you have been treated. It sets you off on a journey of anger, self-pity and grief. And you let the wound fester there – causing you more pain, making you suffer more – and more!
But think of what can happen if you choose to ignore the insult. If you refuse to let it affect you. What if someone calls you an idiot and you just ignore that expression totally? Then there will be no hurt. And therefore no suffering. To reach this state all you need is to remember that each one is entitled to their thoughts, their opinions and their actions. If someone expresses his or her opinion, take it on board if it is worth it. If it will cause agony – drop it. Or rather don’t even catch it. Let the comment, barb, jibe, insult – or even an action, whatever, let it pass.
I am not judging the way Cyrus is handling his crisis, his catharsis. I only say that I can empathize with his sense of pain. Ultimately, to each one, their own. Your individual “Being Cyrus” or “Being AVIS” experience will help you onward to being you!
Even so, you are already on this evolutionary journey. And you can help yourself better by periodically checking out how well you are faring. Choose a 24-hour period and promise yourself that you will not react or retort to whatever may be said about you – no matter what the context is or what the provocation is. Notice that you will feel infinitely better without taking on board all the comments – about you – that come your way. Or without having to react to everything that is done to you.
This definitely works wonders when it comes to dealing with hurts, insults and motivated actions against you. But it also is a great way to stay grounded – especially when a lot of praise is heaped on you. If you let both insult and praise to pass, you will never be allowing your ego to be in the driver’s seat! When the ego is not driving you, you cannot be touched. Because then, as per Tao and the Empty Boat story, there’s no one to be touched!
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It is important to understand why you feel hurt when someone lets you down or causes you pain, injury and grief. Of course any form of pain – physical or emotional – will hurt. But a hurt festers in you because you allow it to. The truth is that you hurt only when you allow someone’s action to stay with you, in your thoughts. When you let go of your anger, of your suffering, while the source (or impact) of pain – as a person or event – may remain, you will not hurt anymore.