When was the last time you looked at someone and genuinely wondered what it was like to be them? How they came to be who they are today?
What about the last time that you felt like someone was deeply curious and fascinated by who you are and how you came to be the person you are today?
I ask, because we humans have a deep need to be known for who we are.
We want to be seen, heard, known.
We want to feel connected and safe with one another.
We want to matter.
We want our goodness recognized, acknowledged and appreciated.
Yet we keep tripping over our toxic judgments of one another.
It starts personal: He is selfish and patronizing. She is defensive and too emotional. Those are ignorant, reactive people.
And, then extends to the collective: They are racist, sexist, communists, socialists, dictators, terrorists, criminals, nazis, elitists. Endless labels.
All sophisticated ways of simply saying: Those bad people…They’re the problem.
Judgments dehumanize us and keep us separated.
They keep us divided and polarized.
They inhibit our ability to connect in meaningful ways with one another.
They prevent us from learning, growing, and enriching each others’ perspectives.
They do not move conversations forward.
They do not solve the complex problems facing us today.
They lure us into cultivating a story about another person and then projecting it onto them as if it is truth, often becoming a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy.
When we misdiagnose people who do harmful things as “bad people,” we lose sight of the circumstances and situations that may have lead them to inhabit the position they are in. We lose access to our shared humanity and our compassion.
We need to become curious about one another.
We need to get to know each other, without an agenda to change or colonize their psyches.
Unlearn what we think we know about people and start to become more aware of the patterns of judgments that live inside us and filter our perceptions of who people are.
If you’d like to heal separation, alleviate suffering or contribute towards a transformative shift in our culture, start a new conversation this week.
Commit to these practices:
Tell me your story.
Ground your conversation in the question: “What is it like to be you?” Get curious about the experiences and circumstances that shaped their world views, wounds and inner warriors. Listen deeply. Look for shared humanity.
I see you.
Reflect back what they share with you. Mirror their experiences back to them. Give people the experience of being seen. Being known. Being accepted.
I see your goodness.
Reflect the deeply universal human needs that you see them reaching for. Name the values that you see them serving. Acknowledge the good things that matter to them. Name any gifts and goodness that you can see in them. Reflect their good intentions.
Put the Relationship First
Trust this: relationships based on meeting human needs will cultivate transformative change. We get lured into anger and force because it can feel like we’re “doing something.” However, the more force and righteousness we use, the more resistance and entrenchment we encounter.
Instead, treat each conversation with every human being the same way you would grow a plant:
1. Provide fertile soil: We need to be grounded. Don’t attack the root system: it’s how we get our nourishment and stability.
2. Bring in the right amount of light: Be careful not to burn them or keep them in darkness. Radiate warmth.
3. Water them regularly: Don’t flood people with ideas or force; small amounts of feelings and needs over time will support growth far better than waterfalls and fire hydrants.
When we drop our narratives about others, we open the possibility for them to be something different. When we stop projecting “badness” onto them, we create space for a new way of being.
As the fog of our judgments clears away, we begin to see people as they are: beautiful, wounded, scared, courageous, deeply influenced by their histories and experiences, and full of desire and longing to find a better way.
Let’s keep doing the inner work of lifting the oppressive field of judgment, shame and blame, and cultivating compassion, awareness and our ability to call forth the humanity and essential goodness that lies within each of our human hearts.
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Amen Yvette! Beautifully and powerfully said. I think you should publish it as an op-Ed in The NY Times. It’s perfect for our times.
Nice piece Yvette. You’ve got it covered. Parallels with Buddhist practice.
Thanks for teaching integrative practices.
I agree with Terry. This is perfect for our time, Yvette! Do submit it to the NYT.
Beautiful! I agree with Terry and Tina. This needs to be shared with millions!
Thank you so much, Yvette. Such a gift.