Well, honestly, there’s nothing you can do about it!
A follower on Instagram asked me this question: “What do you do when someone refuses, despite your best efforts, to understand you – and what if that someone happens to be a close family member?”
I had a few relevant learnings to share. One is that honest conversations are critical for divergent views to be expressed and for close relationships to thrive. At least one member of the family must be allowed to play the role of an objective arbitrator to facilitate constructive confrontation in specific contexts. Second, it is futile to convince people who don’t want to understand you, despite your best efforts. If there is a misunderstanding you can present evidence, you can sit down, clarify and seek an understanding. But what if there is a concerted, sometimes even manipulative, effort to not want to understand you? Then, the best approach is silence. When you don’t stoke an argument, when you don’t try to prove anymore that you are right, when you let others hold on to what they believe is the truth, then distances may prevail alright – but there won’t be any further acrimony. Third, don’t hold on to what has been said about you, to judgments that have been passed. You can’t always erase the memory of a hurt, but don’t hold on to the hurt itself. Set it down, let it go. You don’t have to either pretend to be close or be awkwardly cold to people you can’t relate to anymore, but letting go of what they did to you can dissolve all hostility. And that contributes big time to your inner peace.
My own experiences (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) in Life have taught me that it is perfectly fine when you can’t relate to some members of your family. I have come to realize that no one person is right or wrong. Each one is entitled to their view. The key question is whether you are able to relate to the view being expressed. When you are not, just move on. Don’t try to challenge, or convince, or change the other person. There really is no point grieving over a situation which requires more than just your integrity and intention to bridge the distances. Such is Life. At best, when an opportunity arises, you speak your mind. Be detached, be dispassionate. Just say what you feel is important for you to say. Don’t expect anyone to be convinced. And leave things as they are.
It is the lack of empathy that makes our world a cold, unfriendly, place.
Since I am a public speaker, and I do often get invited to address audiences, I have been asked by my doctor to nurture and protect my vocal cords. So, I have now begin carrying a collar mic with me. This mic runs on 9V battery power. I have to carry spare 9V cells so I am never short of one.
Yesterday, at the airport, a CISF (Central Industrial Security Force – mandated with airport security in India) Inspector disallowed me from carrying the extra cells. We got into a discussion over the matter. Although I was upset, and initially angry too, I let it pass. I heard what the gentleman had to say. He patiently explained to me that he didn’t have a problem with me carrying one cell in the mic, but he would not be allowing the “extras” to go with me.
We spoke over the matter for about 10 minutes. We spoke in Hindi. At the end of it, he thanked me for my “badappan” – magnanimity – in understanding his point of view. And I thanked him for his courtesy and patience with my situation. All through the conversation, he wore a bright, friendly, look on him. He was calm and never intimidating. We parted ways shaking hands and wishing each other well.
This Blogpost comes close on the heels of an unfortunate episode where Indigo staffers allegedly manhandled a passenger – a story that continues to be shared virally and debated across India. Even otherwise, I have often found people at airports, across the world, being particularly uncharitable to security personnel. Both in terms of opinion and attitude, most passengers tend to consider security folks painful to deal with. In the past, I too have been grumpy whenever I have been ‘randomly’ selected, isolated and ‘patted down’ by TSA staff in American airports or when CISF people have asked for my laptop bag to be re-examined. But, over the years, thanks perhaps to my personal evolution and given the high-risk and vulnerable environment that prevails globally, I have learned to understand – and not interpret or imagine – the motives of airport security people. They have taught me empathy.
For instance, Siddarth, the CISF Inspector I dealt with yesterday, told me this: “Hamari koshish bas yehi hai ki hamari nigrani mein koi negative episode na ho jaye. Aap sab bhale logon ki suraksha hamara zimma hai.” – “Our endeavor is to ensure passenger safety and that nothing negative/untoward happens under our watch. We want to protect all you good people out there.” He added, “When passengers get upset with us for doing our jobs diligently, my staff do feel demoralized. But I tell them – forgive them. Keep calm and keep treating every passenger the way you like to be treated!”
I loved that lesson in empathy and Buddhahood. Treat others the way you like to be treated. The essence of empathy lies in understanding – and not in interpreting or imagining. Not just in the context of airport security and dealing with people in uniform, who are merely doing their duty, but in all situations, empathy is a great quality to nurture. You don’t have to necessarily agree with everyone’s point of view, but you can surely see that point of view, and understand the rationale behind the other person’s choices and actions.
It is the lack of empathy that makes our world a cold, unfriendly, place. What we need today is global heartwarming – more patience, more understanding, more empathy. We need more Buddhas, like the CISF Inspector Siddarth!
A couple came to us wondering how they can separate while ensuring that their children are not affected. I shared how my friend and his wife worked out a win-win arrangement, based on my advice, that has helped them both immensely. On this Podcast, I talk about how it is possible for a couple to set aside their differences if they choose to keep their children at the centre of their Universe. Any fight that is ego-driven is not worth it. Focus instead on a “working arrangement” when the relating between two people goes out the window.
Listen time: 5:31 minutes
What do you do when, sometimes, people don’t want to understand you? And you have stopped relating to them? Move on… In today’s Podcast I champion that you must protect your inner peace – because that’s all you have got and only you are responsible for it! Listen time: 4:03 minutes
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!
Investing all that time in yourself is a far more meaningful thing to do.
I watch helplessly as the world shreds and probes the Life of acclaimed singer Suchitra Kumar. Her husband, who is an actor and stand-up comedian, is a close friend. Despite his fervent appeal that Suchi be left alone, as she is going through an emotionally challenging phase, the Twitterati and the Page 3 media junta are dissecting the lady’s online activity and behavior. They call it #suchileaks! WhatsApp forwards are simply propagating unfounded information – sheer nonsense, that’s truly avoidable! A few of the couple’s colleagues in the entertainment industry are being uncharitable adding to the media frenzy. Here’s a situation, I believe, that can happen to any of us. Someone’s going through an emotional catharsis. And avoidable content is emerging from her Twitter handle. The family says they are trying to make sense of this. There’s a theory too that her account could have been hacked. Where is the need to rush and pronounce judgment on this? Why engage in frivolous commentary?
When I look at the #suchileaks drama, and society’s response to it, particularly on social media, I can only say that it is sadly reflective of how much our culture has degenerated. Just because we have access to social media platforms, just because we have an opinion on a matter, must we rush to put it out there? Critique is ok. But look at what we are doing, consider how we are behaving. We almost always only criticize, often without any rationale; we chastise, we ridicule, we mock, and what’s most vulgar, we pass judgment ruthlessly. If you sit back and reflect calmly you may perhaps agree with me here. If we invest the amount of time, that we waste on obsessing over the lives of other people, on ourselves, we would not just make progress by being more productive at whatever we work on, we will be happier!
If there ever is anything sinful in Life, it has to be this despicable act of judging others. Unfortunately our society is steeped in this sin, it in fact thrives on it! Most judgment these days happens on social media and almost all the time it is never based on facts or evidence. It is driven by baseless opinion and an angst to prove to the world that you too exist. For instance, if you didn’t post a comment on what you think of Suchi, the moment #suchileaks surfaced, why would anyone even look at your Tweet or post? Or if you didn’t leverage Suchi’s emotional turmoil and give her an ignominious epithet, how can you stay relevant in the dog-eat-dog marketplace?
But there is hope. If each of us can make a small beginning. Clearly, what our world urgently needs is global heartwarming. So, each of us must cultivate understanding and compassion and learn to drop the urge to judge others. We can do this if we can pause and ruminate before making online utterances, specifically in contexts concerning others – not just of celebrities, of anyone. We may like to ask ourselves: is it the truth, is my opinion in the matter relevant, isn’t offering the opinion avoidable; when uttered, will my comment be fair to all concerned, is my Life going to be any better because I commented on this subject or person? I have been employing these questions every single time I have a craving to share an opinion. To be sure, I too have opinions, almost on everything – and everyone – around me. But when I chew over my opinion and subject them to these questions, I find my opinion dissolving. It is a beautiful process – an avoidable urge to judge, opinionate or comment arises and then I throw the questions at that urge and the urge simply capitulates and disappears. Try it! It works!!
I believe the biggest value that choosing to be non-judgmental delivers is time. When we stop obsessing over others’ lives, we have a lot more time to reflect on our own. And it is only through continuously investing in yourself that you can live a fuller, meaningful, happier Life!