You know those people: they cut in line, are rude to you in the office or at the restaurant, cut you off in traffic, talk loudly about obnoxious things, play loud music when you’re trying to concentrate, interrupt you, and so on.
These offenses are violations of the way you think people should act. And so it burns you up. Don’t worry, I’m the same way.
If you just keep letting these offensive people get to you, you’ll always be mad or annoyed. Life won’t be very good. But it’s something you can learn to deal with.
I have to admit I’m not perfect at this, but here are three strategies I use that are helpful:
- Get Big. I learned this one from Zen teacher Robert Thomas, who uses “Get Big” as one of his slogans that helps him to be mindful. Imagine you’re a 2-year-old toddler, who can’t have a toy or some ice cream right this minute. This problem is your entire universe, because you have no perspective, and so … you throw a fit. This is the world of a 2-year-old (I should know, I’ve had 6 of them). But as adults, we know that this is a very small problem, and in fact there are lots of other things the 2-year-old could do to be happy. Sure, that’s easy for us — we have a bigger perspective. But when someone offends us, we have a small perspective — this little offense is the biggest thing in the world, and it makes us very angry. We throw the equivalent of a 2-year-old fit. But if we get a bigger perspective (Get Big), we can see that this little thing matters very little in the bigger picture. It’s not worth being angry over. So remind yourself to Get Big, then widen your perspective.
- Float Down the Stream. When I drive and other drivers do rude things, I often get angry. Then I remember a trick: I imagine myself floating down a stream in a raft, and the other cars are just twigs and leaves floating past me one way or another on this stream. They don’t have to treat me a certain way, because they’re just twigs. And so I serenely float down this stream, not worrying about how the twigs float around me (though I try not to hit them, because, you know, safety first). And in truth, this is how life is — other people aren’t trying to offend you, don’t even worry about you most of the time. They are just twigs floating by. Be nice to the twigs though.
- Give Them a Mental Hug. This little trick can transform the way I feel about someone who makes me angry. Let’s say someone has just said something rude to me. How dare they! Don’t they have any consideration for my feelings? But of course, in this reaction, I’m not having any consideration for their feelings — only mine matter. And so I try to empathize with this rude person, and realize that they’re angry, or scared, or both. They are being rude as a coping mechanism for their fear. And so, mentally (and once in a while physically), I give them a hug. I have compassion for this scared person, because I too am often scared. We’re the same. We need a hug, some compassion, a little love.