When I was around ten, my best friend Jay did something that I was convinced was completely unfair. In a clear attempt to get attention, I stomped into our family room and plopped myself on the couch and with my arms crossed announced my frustration. My Dad, probably trying to obtain a moment of peace, sat down with his newspaper (an ancient tradition) and listened. As I pleaded my case of clear injustice, he listened with kindness and asked some good questions. After a few minutes of my obstinance and clear desire of only seeking agreement, he started to walk into the other room and with a smile on his face and kindness in his voice, he said,
“Just remember, it’s not always about you.”
He playfully rubbed my head and went to another room to continue his reading. I was not in the mood for words of wisdom. What I wanted was complete agreement that I was the one who had been wronged, and I was completely justified in my pouting.
Thankfully I received not what I wanted but what I needed. I have thought of those words probably thousands of times over the years in moments of my own justification and an absence of empathy of the other person’s perspective. Selfishness is not something we need to be taught, there is no need for workshops or semester long courses.
Here are a few things to remember when you find yourself in that place of wanting someone to simply tell you how RIGHT you are and how wrong the other person must be.
Seek to hear before being heard. Rather than stating your perspective, ask a question that seeks to understand theirs. Something as simple as “help me to understand” can completely change the interaction.
State out loud what the other person might be thinking (even if you are alone). I know this might sound odd, but when we role play what the other person’s perspective might be, it helps to change our perspective.
Give yourself time to cool off. This can easily sound like one of those corny things that we are already aware of, but once words are stated we can never take them back. In many situations, I like the 24-hour rule; I’m not going to say anything for a day.
Seek wisdom from others. Find someone that will not just tell you what you want to hear, but give you sound advice.
And for me, here is the most important thing to remember,
It’s not all about you!!!