Have you learned lessons only from those who admired you,
were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learned great lessons from those
who have braced themselves against you, and disputed the passage with you?
~ Walt Whitman
It’s easy to be around those who form our mutual admiration society. These folks sing our praises, boost our morale, and help pave our way in the world. They have our best interests at heart. They validate us.
Learning from them is easy because the lessons often appear in a brightly colored, easy-to-take format. And when the lesson is something we need to learn but don’t necessarily want to be taught, the message is couched in a way that allows us to hear it in a safe environment.
According to Mary Poppins, “a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down”, sometimes “in a most delightful way”.
But what about the other opportunities we’re offered to learn something about ourselves? What about those who push our buttons, confront or confound us, or don’t play well with others?
Often our impulse is to steer clear of such people. They make us feel uncomfortable, intimidated or “less than”. Who wants to choose these feelings? And yet, they can open doors to personal discovery for us.
When you ﬁnd yourself in such a situation, what if you asked yourself, “What can I learn from this person?”
It can be as simple as recognizing what feelings arise within you. Why do you have such a reaction? Do you refuse to stand up for your ideas? Do you shut down and stop listening? Do you say “Yes” when you really mean “No”?Why are you feeling what you’re feeling? What does this tell you about yourself?
Sometimes the greatest self-discovery comes from those we would never choose to be around.
Your Call to Action:
This week focus on your encounters with those you don’t especially like and notice your feelings. Ask yourself “Why” 5 times to go deeper into what’s really going on within you.
For example, if you are feeling anger in a meeting because of someone, ask
“Why am I angry?” …because he won’t let anyone else speak.
“Why does that bother me?” …because he’s hogging the ﬂoor.
“Why does hogging the ﬂoor rile me? …because it means I can’t participate.
“Why can’t I participate? …because I don’t want to appear rude.
“Why don’t I want to appear rude?” …because then people won’t like me.
Ah, self-discovery: I really want people to like me, so much so that I keep my opinions to myself.