Shifting Perspectives

Judgments / Understanding / Compassion - the Great Search for the Need

So by now we hopefully understand that different labels come from differences in perception. It is common for us as humans to judge someone for doing something we don’t agree with. When this happens we are not thinking about the perception of the person we are judging. What if we looked at it a different way…
Are you ready?
Here it comes:

Everyone in the world is doing the best they can in a Moment.
We are all trying to meet a need.

Think about this idea. It is essentially offering that the decisions that you make at any point in time are the best you know how to do. Even avoiding a test, or being dishonest. The same can be said when looking at others. It can be easy to judge someone for the decisions they make, and what if we looked at the need behind the action rather than how we viewed the action?

Two of the four agreements (from the book, The Four Agreements) come into play here; don’t take anything personally, and don’t make assumptions. These are two sides of the same coin, reflecting in different directions. As already said; everyone in this world is doing what they can to meet their needs; nothing is personal. Even in times of “malice,” there is a need behind their actions. Making assumptions over the actions of others comes under the same umbrella. Don’t assume someone is doing something to you, at you, or with you. They are doing something…the sentence can end there.

Let’s look at another scenario…You are driving and someone cuts you off. ‘What an asshole!’ ‘Why would they do that?’ ‘They are so inconsiderate!’ How do we feel right now? It would be normal to feel angry, after all I was ‘right’ and they were ‘wrong’.
What if we make that shift….What could their need be? It could be timeliness, efficiency, they could need to use the bathroom and are looking for ease and comfort. It’s not about specifically finding the need of that person, because especially in this scenario, it is something you will never know. It is about understanding that that person is trying to meet their need in a different way to us. Can you hold that with compassion?
It’s important to consider than not everything is acceptable, as well. Compassion does not turn a person into a passive pile of Jello. You might take down their license number and report them, for example. Being compassionate is not the same as being a willing punching bag. More so it’s about understanding why a person wants to punch…putting yourself in their shoes.
In these times, it can be easy to think about our own needs and compare them to the other person. To go off of the above scenario, let’s say that you also needed to use the bathroom and now you’re stuck at a light because you got cut off and you pee your pants. It’s easy to blame the other person, and say that they were wrong for their actions, and this won’t allow any compassion. It’s about understanding that every individual is looking to meet their own need, and not judging them for that.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

When thinking about this topic, consider the world as a whole for a moment. It is currently 12:28pm GMT on the 15th of December and the population of Earth right now is 7,471,339,228, and this is constantly growing. By the time you read this it will be much higher than that. There are so many people on this earth, and each one of them sees the world differently. The ‘perfect world’ may consist of everyone seeing it the same way…but that could also be a little boring. Everyone is different, and has different ways of meeting their needs. How do you want people to hold you when they disagree with your actions? And how do you want to hold others when you disagree with their actions? Remember, everyone is doing the very best that they can at any given time. Hold compassion around your actions and the actions of others and you may be able to experience a lot more freedom in this world.

Clean Shifts – Exploring Needs Through Communication

When approaching moments of trial or challenge, use Clean Communication. It is important to consider how we can use intentional speech during this
time, and create an environment that is open, allowing caring and freedom. Own everything you say as your own experience, taking 100% responsibility. Avoid using shoulds, or the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as they are reflective of your beliefs, and don’t allow for the expression of the other party.

There often times while communicating when a request wants to be made. When this happens, it is useful to avoid the ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Instead approach your requests using Non-Violent Communication. Try a simple word switch: substitute ‘beneficial’ in the place of ‘right.’ Beneficial implies a subjective preference, one that is in-line with certain values and experiences; it also is not absolute, and recognizes that there may be some question and discussion around what ‘beneficial’ means to everyone involved. The word ‘prefer’ can work similarly. This is about changing our relationship to our values and needs. We still have them; we want to meet them and act in line with them, yet there is no guarantee that things will work out in their favor (favor is another word with more possibility). This realization gives us the freedom to still passionately pursue something that we’d like to see happen, and work to make it so…but not be closed off to other possibilities.

An important side note is that the intention behind the word is also important; if you simply substitute “prefer” for “right,” and there is no shift in thought that accompanies that switch, not much has changed. However, when we use these words like prefer/favor/benefit because, as they are commonly used, they generally have more space and possibility around them. It is important to be genuine in your communication, saying one of these terms without being open has the potential to leave you in another stalemate if you don’t get the answer you want.

We can also recognize that we all have different preferences. When preferences are recognized—and even passionately advocated for—the conversation shifts into a shared place where mutually-preferred outcomes are more likely. When you start from a place of needing to be right, the outcome is more likely to devolve into a place of resentment and anger. When you start from a place of curiosity, you’re likely to end up with innovative solutions that meet everyone’s needs! If the judgment is around their action, and you’re not willing to listen to them with this openness, then the primary challenge may be within yourself. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. 🙂

Wrapping Up...

When we get stuck in right and wrong thinking, we are stuck. This section of the website has discussed many examples, and yet, there are still many nuances left out. There are many resources available in the following Tools and Meditations pages around right/wrong thinking, – and an overarching point to make is this: we want avoid being those, as Thoreau once said, who “lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Better to sing loudly, and live passionately. This section on right and wrong aims to unlock the ability to sing louder – not stifle your song. Be the passionate you that you have always been – and be curious around other’s passions. Be sure of yourself and your direction – and be open to the directions of others. We are all students of life – what will you be able to learn when you leave aside the righteousness, and embrace openness? What other songs will you hear?