Seeing the best in life's challenges

How To See Clearly Now

on August 22, 2012

It’s uncomfortable to watch other people in situations where they are unhappy, frustrated, overwhelmed or otherwise just not good, when you can clearly see and understand the dynamics of what’s going on.  Yet, the person in the situation didn’t see it coming, and even when they repeat their circumstances over and over, they still don’t see the cause and effect, their own contributions that obviously lead them into the same trap, time and time again. When this is someone you care about and love very much, it feels more than just uncomfortable.

It’s so easy to see this happening to others, yet almost impossible to recognize when we are doing the exact same thing.

When we see another person heading toward trouble, the same trouble they complained to us about last week, we wish we could tell them what we see.  But most of the time, we don’t.  Maybe we’ve tried and they couldn’t or wouldn’t listen.  If you are a parent, you know that you could have saved your children lots of times, but kids won’t listen – they have to learn many lessons the hard way, through experience.  The same dynamic can occur when you see someone missing an opportunity.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

There’s a lot to be said for learning by experiencing.  We all know that lessons stick much better if we live them, rather than just reading about it or having someone tell us.  Letting someone else learn their own lessons is more respectful of them than offering them unwanted advice or outspokenly telling them what they should do.

But I want to talk about the other side of the coin.  If I can see others clearly, then there must be somebody out there who is seeing ME clearly. Do I have the same resistance to the advice, wisdom or constructive criticism of others?  Why?

I’m talking about feedback from a person that you know has your best interests at heart and loves you and means to help.   I’m talking about someone who takes the time to ask questions and to understand you and your situation.  Someone who qualifies what they say with statements like “I could be wrong, but it seems to me…” and is kind and gentle with you.  Someone who cares more about you than about being “right.”  I am NOT talking about the know-it-all who always thinks they know what’s right regardless of the situation and talks AT you, not WITH you.  The kind of person that you know is thinking “I told you so!”  There’s a BIG difference.

Wouldn’t it be smart of me to seek out those people, and cultivate a relationship with them where I could tap into their insights and wisdom and apply it to my life?

To be able to listen to another person give their honest feedback about our faults and mistakes can be a really big pill to swallow.  Much has been written about overcoming Fear and Ego, the two biggest obstacles in these cases.  If someone who cares is giving you feedback, and you feel yourself becoming angry or defensive, can you step back and ask yourself what buttons have just been pushed?  Why is what they are saying such a trigger for you?  What might this tell you about yourself?  What’s more important to you — avoiding your own negative reaction and staying comfortable, or learning something about yourself that might help you grow?

This is an aspect of communication that takes effort, cultivation and practice.  You have to be working at it on purpose.  You have to be ok with making mistakes and getting emotional.  Not easy!!!  But simple steps can get you started.  Next time you are frustrated and complaining about a situation to a friend, stop and ask, “So, are you seeing anything I’m not seeing here?  Any insights?”  Then make your best effort to listen, without interrupting, defending yourself, or arguing.  And if you realize later that you blew it in a situation like this, make a point to tell that person that you recognize this and that you will try harder next time, because you value their perspective.  There’s nothing wrong with telling another person that you think they are wise, you value their opinion, and that you are trying to get better about listening to the advice of others!  I bet this will make your friend feel great and they will want to support you in this!

You have to learn to be honest with yourself first, before you can truly be honest with others.  And you have to demonstrate your honesty and willingness to listen to others and develop a level of trust before others will be comfortable enough to be truly honest with you.

Honest feedback from others that truly care about you is one of the most valuable resources you can tap.  Only you can decide if you are willing to work hard enough through the obstacles to take advantage of it.

A person who plays this role for another is nothing less than an Angel.  While we’re at it, we can also work on being the Angel that someone else is looking for.

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