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.
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!