Give The Gift of Letting Others Think Whatever They Want

December 6, 2013

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I propose a powerful, simple experiment for you this holiday season:

Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.

This experiment will be especially useful if you are going to visit family and stressful interactions are routine in that odd tribe.

I went to visit my mom in Maryland for Thanksgiving last year. My mom’s amazing. She’s in a Maryland Woman’s Hall of Fame for her lifelong humanitarian service. She’s a knockout champion for the underserved and overlooked.

We got to talking about all the mindful awareness work I was doing with military veterans and people diagnosed with autism, my coaching practice and volunteering for Marianne Williamson’s US Congressional campaign.

You would think we’d do nothing but nod along in emphatic agreement to each other’s convictions and perspectives. But not so!! My mom’s on constant high alert for any signs of idealistic arrogance in her children.

On Saturday after T-day, while talking to my mom in the car, I suddenly noticed my voice rising and a light sweat begin seeping from my forehead as she contested one of my fundamental observations about western civilization – that most people are suffering in ways we don’t even recognize because we’re distracted with countless diversions, addictions, and made-up disempowering beliefs.

Rather than be open to her different perspective about all that and consider the points she was offering, I chose to press in and not just work to convince her that I know what I’m talking about, but to get her to think the same way.

Idealistic arrogance, indeed.

Does this happen to you?

Do you ever find yourself talking to family when suddenly you find your head swirling with stress, your palms sweaty, your voice agitated, and you’d gladly trade your good health for earplugs and a vodka … or a large mallet (to beat the walls, not your loved one)?

If so, try this experiment.

(1) If you notice a conversation getting stressful, stop talking.

Examine your body. Are you feeling tighter or heavier somewhere in your body? Is your heart beating faster? Are you experiencing a desire to flee … or attack?

Do neither. Take a deep breath and consider the conversation you’re having.

(2) Ask yourself, “Is it really so important this person agree with your point of view?”

What do you get if they do? Validation? A good feeling?

(3) Give all that – validation and good feeling – to yourself.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to think what you think or feel good about yourself. What is the worst that could happen if you simply let them think what they think?

Even if you disagree on a sensitive issue, they’ll probably appreciate you more if you just give them the space to believe whatever they want to believe.

This holiday season, give the gift of letting other people believe whatever they want to believe.

Even their beliefs about you.

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The only thing you have to lose is your attachment to other people’s thoughts.

But what do you stand to gain? Only your sanity, inner freedom, joy, enthusiasm, and peace of mind.

Let me know in the comments below how it goes!


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  • hey there! Awesome blog! Ex husband gave me a chance to practice this just this week…and even though i had to leave the conversation because he couldn’t handle my calmness, it felt really good to let his issues be his issues and not try to solve them through healthy communication. He is challenged in that department and I have finally accepted that. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t so my moral of the story is sometimes you have to just walk away from an abusive conversation and honor the other person’s right to believe what they want to believe to stay in misery…somehow that misery is serving a story they keep telling themselves and until THEY are sick of the story, it will continue to come up and cause harm. But no longer for me…wow. crazy stuff but liberating to finally get to. Hard to practice but freedom and peace comes when you honor this tact. Love ya, B

    • love ya back, Mischa. thanks for sharing. at least for me, it takes so much courage to let other people, particularly my intimate ones, think whatever they want to think … especially when I can see it’s clearly insane (but then, what do I really know? :)))))

  • Something I ask myself on almost a daily basis 1, does it need to be said 2, does it need to be said by me 3, does it need to be said by me right now. ……. as I continue to answer these ?’s more often the quieter and the more at peace with myself I become, and the more at peace those around become. Thank u again Bryan for another great article

  • I find more and more these days that I can happily let others have their opinion about an external subject. The work for me is in how their opinions trigger my perceptions of how I believe they view me. They are being my mirror even through a discussion about external matters. To walk away, to withdraw from the conversation is easy, to sit in that space and challenge my own perceptions of self is the hard work.

    The last 12mths I have had the blessing of being in a situation to do major healing work with my Mum, still a work in progress but learning many valuable lessons. As you say Bryan breathing, checking in on what is happening internally. But then for me its speaking up and in gratitude and Love seeking the truth of the exchange not my perceptions of it. A huge step for me, loving myself enough to calmly make enquiry of what I believe I’m hearing.

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