I recently read Brené Brown's newest book Rising Strong. It is good, really good. You should read her Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly first, but even without reading the other two I think Rising Strong is a great book. There are two points from the book that really resonated with me, and since I read the book I keep thinking about them in a variety of contexts.
The first point is that we tell ourselves stories in order to make sense of this world. Often our stories are not based entirely upon reality, but in what we think others' motivation might be in our daily interactions. I'm not going to rehash the entire book, but I will say that starting a conversation with "the story I'm making up here" instead of "you always..." ends with a much better result. When you are able to remove the accusation, and get to the heart of what is bugging you you can find a resolution in a much more positive way. I used this in a conversation with T the other night, and it felt better than my normal accusatory statements that I know deep down aren't true even if the story I've made up includes them. Perhaps the trick with using this approach is that you need to be tired of your own bullshit for it to make sense to you. I haven't used it at work yet, but I've thought it when my brain tries to tell me an us-them story about why we are so right and they are so wrong and clueless.
The next point that blew my mind was that everyone is doing their best always. I enjoyed how this was covered in the book because the author's struggle with whether or not this was true struck me as a battle I could see myself facing. If we accept that people are coping with the situation at hand the best way they can in that particular moment it frees us from all of the should statements we want to lay on others. It doesn't make their behavior okay, but when we let go of our own expectations about how other people act we free ourselves from the burden of being the behavior police. This little shift in how we interpret other people's actions is amazingly powerful. Again I think you need to be ready to be a good bit self critical to see how this is a gift to yourself. How much time and energy have you wasted in your life railing about the way someone else treated you or acted towards you? If you approached all of those situations with an understanding that yes her behavior sucked and I will set better boundaries around that person in the future - but she was doing the best she could in that moment - how would your life change? I've used this a few times with my kids already, more as a reminder to myself and T that when they don't handle difficult situations easily it doesn't mean that they are purposely acting out.
There is an implied forgiveness in every "she was doing the best that she could," you think to yourself. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, so shifting our thinking to include quicker paths to forgiving others is very powerful. There is also a good deal of annoying every time you think this way. It is much more comforting to fall into the old blame cycles and self-righteous ranting, then it is to face that other people are just as imperfect as we are. I know deep down that in order to be truly kind to myself I need to be kind to others. I need to accept that everybody is doing the best that they can in that particular moment - even when sometimes their bests are pretty shitty and terrible.