No one gets through life without some stress, it’s just part of the game. It used to be that our biggest stressors were physical threats like saber-toothed tigers. You’d either fight or run away and within 20 minutes or so you’d either be safe or one of you’d be mortally wounded. Today, few if any of our stressors are physical threats; however, we still have the same fight of flight response. Neither fighting nor fleeing does us very much good when the boss is chewing us a new one, at least not if we want to keep our jobs.
Today, I’ve got 12 truths that will help you deal with many types of people, uuhh… I mean stressors:
1. Some people will always misunderstand you – Everyone views the world through their own filters, biases, and prejudices and they will project those onto you because that’s the only thing they can do. It doesn’t mean either of you is a bad communicator, although one or both of you might be; all it means is that you’re not on the same wavelength.
2. If you put it in writing, even more people will misunderstand you – Without tone of voice and facial expression, and without the immediate feedback of a face to face encounter, people’s filters, biases, and prejudices will undoubtedly run amok. There’s nothing you can do about that. Just take a deep breath and accept it. Once you’re calm, decide how important it is that the other person truly understands what you meant; for instance random stranger on the internet… not so much; your boss… yeah, you might wanna clear that one up.
3. You will never achieve universal popularity – There will always be someone who doesn’t like you, for whatever reason. Their dislike of you may be completely irrational, and they may even know that it’s irrational, but that won’t make them like you any more. Pick any person famous for being nice, caring, giving, altruistic, etc. and there are people who hate on them and people who ascribe all sorts of ulterior motives to their actions. Because bias. Because filters. Because lots of things.
4. You cannot reason with irrationality – The idea that you can, is just… well, irrational.
5. You have to pick your battles – Not every battle is worth fighting and not every battle can be won. You have to decide on a case by case basis just how important an issue is in the grand scheme of things.
6. It is better to be kind or happy than to be right – Sometimes, no matter what you do or say, you won’t sway another person’s opinion. If you pay attention, you can usually tell this fairly early on and save yourself a big headache later.
7. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree – Respecting others’ differences is a sure-fire way to keep your stress level down.
8. Nothing that anyone says or does is because of you, even when it seems like it is – People act they way they do because of their own needs, wants, biases, filters, etc. As difficult as it can be, you shouldn’t take anything personally. I first ran across this concept in The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, and it has been one of the most life transforming concepts I’ve ever encountered.
9. Change the stressors that you can – When it’s within your power to change a stressor, why would you not??
10. You can change more stressors than you think you can – You have more options than you think. It doesn’t mean that those options for change will be easy, simple, or without a whole lot of risk, but there are options to change just about every stressor you have.
11. If you can’t change a stressor, change your expectation, attitude, or response to it – If you find yourself shoulding on yourself or others, it’s a good indication that you need to do this. If you find yourself stressed out by someone’s repeated behavior or irritating personality trait, you need to change how you respond because chances are good that they’re not going to change.
12. Always be true to yourself – I promise, cross my heart and pinkie swear promise, that it is way, way, way more stressful to try to be someone you’re not than it is to just be yourself… even if you’re a bit (or a lot) weird; and let’s be honest… we’re all at least a little weird, some are just better at hiding it than others.
These truths are simple, but they’re not necessarily easy to put into practice. I know because I’ve been working on them for years and I’m still working on them. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be working on them for the rest of my life.
While that may sound somewhat depressing because it means we’ll never finish working on them, I prefer to think of it differently. I look at it like an open-ended game: we may never “win,” but our potential for growth is limitless.
These truths have helped transform me from a stressed out mess, to someone who still has a lot of stress but isn’t anywhere near the mess she used to be. I know they can do the same for you.
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