I chose this quote by Gandhi today, because every day last week, I had a conversation with a student or colleague about this very issue: the hateful and unkind words of another, ringing and echoing in their minds, making them sad, angry or confused.
What we must remember is we cannot (nor should we try to) control what others say. We can turn off our computer, delete posts on Facebook, not read hateful emails and so on, but we cannot in fact, stop the thoughts and unkind words of another.
What can we do?
- Remind ourselves that the words of another are not entitled to residence in our minds!
- We control what stays in our minds - and what stay there, lives there.
- We control the repeat button (and what we repeat becomes our beliefs and actions)
- We can choose to not believe the critic, especially when their motive is to be unkind
- When faced with the "dirty feet" of another, we have the opportunity to make decisions for and about ourselves. Here are a few possibilities:
- Get our feelings hurt, walk away, stuff the hurt. This decision usually leads to trying to please the person who was unkind the next time you see them or avoiding them altogether. (I am not recommending this one, but it can happen before we realize it)
- Shoot back with an equally mean or harsher response. Notice I used the word "shoot" because this is battle mentality and contributes to more conflict. (I do not endorse this choice)
- Respond to the critic that you do not share their opinion and choose to discontinue the exchange. This may depend on the relationship and what you hope it will be in the future. I try to choose my honest and most respectful response.
- Give the critic your permission to share their opinions of you. We can often learn something by staying a bit longer in the fray, but stay grounded - when we get emotional, the intellect has ceased. When they are done (and often they will choose not to continue) let them know that you heard them, but choose not to accept what is untrue or hurtful to you. This often will change the behavior of the other person the next time they see you.
Anyone can crawl out of bed and write, speak, spew, or tweet an insult. It takes compassion and maturity to respect the dignity of another human being regardless of whether you know each other, like each other or agree with each other. Let there be no misunderstanding, I have ignored, engaged, reacted badly, and believed the unkind words of others - probably still do, but less and less and less and as I do, I feel much better about everything.
Our minds are our very own domains. They are ours to keep clear, evolving and kind.
I will not allow another to walk through my mind with dirty feet. I love that. I hope you do too. Thank you Gandhi.
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