Q) Margaret, I once read or heard (because I read your articles and I have seen you speak) you say something about trying to be compassionate towards the difficult people in our lives. Are you really asking ME to feel empathy toward someone who is a big flaming jerk to me?
A) Yes I really am asking YOU to feel empathy toward that big flaming jerk. And I will ask you take it even farther and develop feelings of kindness towards them and take it beyond the feelings of kindness and treat them kindly even when they are being a huge flaming jerk. (Thank you for that phrase, as you can see I am loving it!)
Why on earth do I ask you to do all that? First of all, because you are part of my community and I believe that you are capable. In general people who are not willing to grow themselves in this manner don’t consistently read my articles or listen to me speak. Second, I believe that YOU will benefit from this behavior and I also believe that that big flaming jerk will benefit too. The truth is many of us assume that someone who treats us poorly is doing it because of us. They are doing it because of a choice they are making. So from the very beginning we can feel empathetic toward them and the fact that something is going on in their life which is leading them to lash out at you.
As-of right now, let’s you and I agree to stop saying huge flaming jerk (as fun as it might be) and call this person your opportunity person. Or you can come up with another phrase. What you want is to use a phrase that is positive, that recognizes that person is providing you with the ability to strengthen yourself and your conflict resolution skills.
Of course you see the necessary first step. It is to be willing to start the process of being compassionate to this person and this means opening your mind to the possibility that you can and will think positive thoughts about this person.
What’s next? Right now I am going to refer you to a previous article ‘How Am I Supposed to Do That?’ because it too discusses this same topic and gives you some steps to assist you as you learn how to deal with your opportunity person.
PS – Thank you so much for this question because it is one of the most popular things people either ask me about or like to debate me about.