1. Cultivate empathy and compassion
By cultivating our own ability to empathically and compassionately relate to others, we empower ourselves to understand those around us. This means less power given to the things that separate us from each other, and more to what brings us together.
By ‘walking a mile in another man’s shoes’, and seeing things through the eyes of another person (a central theme of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’), we are more likely to understand their motives. Stephen R Covey also sees It as a hallmark of efficiency, to ‘seek first to understand then be understood’.
2. Know yourself
By participating in an ongoing quest to know yourself deeply there is a good chance you’ll understand your own responses and reactions and be able to take more responsibility for them.
When we are able to see that certain things outside of us – people, words, actions – create reactions and responses from within us, we can tell exactly which wall inside us they are hitting. In other words, it is the wall inside of me that an idea or behaviour is bumping into when I outwardly react. Knowing the wall tempers the response.
3. Value difference
It is a fact: we are all different to each other. Diversity is necessary for all life on the planet to thrive. So why is it then, that people different to ourselves cause us so much angst? We seem to be fundamentally wired to notice differences, and there is no problem in that. The issue of difference only arises when we ascribe values to those differences. By assuming that ‘different = bad’ we rob ourselves of so many wonderful human experiences.
Diversity brings richness and life into otherwise plain lives. And valuing difference is all about allowing ourselves to live in line with natural forces. In a forest, a lack of diversity causes extinction. In our lives, a lack of diversity causes division and judgement and can lead to long lasting conflict.
4. Value emotion
We are beings who have feelings, this is something we have no control over (thank goodness). Even the people who seem the most aloof often have some hurt beneath their icy exterior. The history of the suppression of the heart and emotion is long and involved but there are many cultures and value systems in the world that make emotion central to their way of life and are successful. Our mind is a powerful tool and the way we think is crucial to our success, but so too is the way we feel. By valuing emotion without judgement and without overwhelm, we allow ourselves (and each other) to be all of who we really are. Authenticity is freedom. Being fully and completely true to ourselves offers a wonderful way out of insecurity, judgement and self-consciousness.
Warning, however, this one can be quite confronting for a lot people have been taught to quell emotions, or who see emotion as weakness. On the contrary, emotionally intelligent beings are extremely strong.
5. Keep it light
If we remember that one breath at a time is actually how we live, it becomes easier to smile a bit at the things that might otherwise darken our days. Having a little chuckle and a deep breath can go a long way toward keeping peace and balance in our interactions with each other. Giving one another a moment of levity and showing reciprocity of spirit can be a bright spot and change the way a person feels.
Giving of ourselves can mean many things.
We might need to be physically or emotionally ‘present’ for a friend in need. We might need to lend a hand to a stranger carrying a heavy box. We might need to give or raise money for a worthy cause. In any case, giving what you can connects you to life, to other people, and to your own ability to serve others. This is a habit with known health and emotional benefits. Ask anyone who has experienced adversity and arisen stronger on the other side and you will often hear them say that helping others was the greatest way for them to heal. In this way, helping another person offers opportunity. In Judaism it is called a ‘mitzvah’, and is considered an honour to be able to help another human being.
7. Be kind
If in doubt, err on the side of kindness. Simple, but combined with courage and authenticity, this is a powerful mandate. Kindness is a transformational force the world over and a fundamental principle of all major philosophies and religions, anywhere, ever.
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