This potential lack of proper social skills is one of the things that creates problems when we interact with other people. It’s funny how this people problem can be solved by spending time with people. It’s not funny that this people problem creates social anxiety so we avoid people because if it. Do you see the problem? It’s a fucked up loop. One of the solutions is to endure the anxiety until it goes away. Remember that smart thing Goethe said? It applies here too. He was such a smart dude!
We all know that people are different, but whenever we encounter someone that has a different opinion than ours, do we remember that it is because that person is different? Nooooo! We just take it personally, we get angry and we try to convince that person we’re right and that he or she is wrong. If this doesn’t work, we pull out our cussing arsenal. It should do the trick! No one can prove us wrong, right? If this happens, it’s because of the huge narcissistic ego which stops us from trying to understand that person’s point of view. It might even be a similar idea at its core, but the words used are different due to the background experience. An idea is universal, but the wording can be unique. This is why copyright laws exist. We all know that sometimes the sky is blue, but when someone tries to paint it, that person has a unique way to do it thanks to the uniqueness of that person. We love the fact that everybody is different, we just hate when they’re different than us.
“But I get very mad when someone argues with me! What can I do to stop getting so mad every time?” This happens in one of the next two situations: we either know we’re right or we want to be right. To differentiate between these two is a challenge, but the real challenge is to eliminate the need of being right even when we think we are. There are situations when being right is crucial (e.g. medicine or architecture) and situations when all we have is opinions (e.g. philosophy). Before we get to how we can stop ourselves from getting so mad, we need to understand why we get mad in the first place (the questions from chapter nine can be useful here). You can find below my thought process whenever I encounter a different point of view that makes me mad.
A.T.: How dares he/she? That person doesn’t know what he/she is talking about! Let’s prove why we’re right!
C.T.: Hold on! There is a reason for this so I need to understand it first before I release my dragons all over that person. Let’s see what’s the reason for this.
The automatic thought is usually the one that starts the emotional show. As I mentioned many times so far, I believe it is strongly connected to our identity, to our core beliefs. Because of this, whatever comes against it, it is seen as being a threat and it triggers a fight or flight mode. Of course, I don’t always manage to stop the reaction, but it gets easier when I start asking questions to try to understand where is this coming from. Is it pure revenge? Is it competition? Or is it just a communication error? In my experience, the moment I let that person know that I accept his or her point of view is the moment when both my anger and that person’s anger transform into a liberating feeling. I usually say something like “Thank you for your feedback! Can you please let me know, based on your experience, how did you manage to get to this conclusion?”
I’ve found this easier to be done in writing, but it can be done in speech too by showing empathy. When we encounter a strong different opinion that fires us up like some hot pepper, we need to say to ourselves “I might be overreacting. Let’s try to understand this better so I can have a response based on the whole picture” followed by a where is this coming from question. If we manage to switch the focus from ourselves and our ego to the other person, the tension gets released in an empathic way.
How often do you get mad because you want to be right even though you know you’re not?