More often than I care to admit, I fall victim to my emotions. Petty comments slip past my lips like a rancid burp. Other times my face will show off my feelings like a store window. It takes everything I have, at times, to keep my words civil even as my thoughts are anything but.
In those moments, I am lost in the distortion field of my feelings. This distortion field turns my reality into something much darker and more difficult to navigate than my actual reality. The distortion field might continue for a few hours until I am pushed to recalibrate and think differently. That push usually comes from spending time with another person. As I learn more about their reality, I see common threads with my own. I also hear about completely different problems that, selfishly, I am grateful I don’t have but want to help them solve. I can see the value in my lived experience and in theirs. Then, just like that, the distortion field evaporates, and I am back to a happier, healthier reality.
I’m not unique. Humans are social creatures. Contact with one another helps us maintain a healthy, running context. I see it a bit like not drinking water. When I become dehydrated, I get cranky. When I spend too much time in my own head, I get cranky too. But it can be difficult, when I’m in a bad mood, to really see other people — to suck the marrow out of the bone of our interaction and set aside my petty feelings or fatigue.
When I’m heading to a social engagement, I sometimes feel resentment for being “dragged away from home”, rather than excitement for “going to see a friend”. Then, once I get there, I’m cranky over the commute, and beating back my desire to deliver sullen one-liners. In that moment, I’m not seeing the other person. I’m self-involved and seeing my own sense of inconvenience. Eventually, my emotions fade, I start to see the other person, and I realize there’s no where else I would rather be.
What about at work? How do you see people better at work? I went down a bit of a rabbit hole with Psychology Today
and came across a piece that offers “three steps for getting an early promotion”
. The three steps boil down to:
- Respect people.
- Do what you say you’re going to do.
- Be kind.
Seriously. That’s it. These aren’t just rules for work; these are rules for life. Yet, it can be difficult to do one of these things — not to mention all three — when you’re sleep deprived, hungry, frustrated or preoccupied with something else. Yet these three things are what it takes to really see other people -- and seeing other people is the key to unlocking just about everything of value in life. I find that, when I can combine all three of these things: respect, accountability and kindness, and set aside my own emotions or feelings even for a moment, I can see people and, in turn, I can more clearly be seen.