We’ve talked a lot about how to respond to negativity. Here are some positive traits you can practice, that, like habits, can grow into true superpowers for your growth and the growth of those around you.
Deepen care and concern – Truly feel those attitudes we talked about earlier. The more you feel them, the more genuine they become.
Learn to forgive – You’ll have to deal with people where things don’t go well. Forgive them, even if it’s just mentally.
Apologize – Apology softens everything. I found out how valuable that is in college after my mean communication to my rowing teammate. It allowed love and trust to come back in. It works because it requires your humility.
Really Listen – Be silent and pay attention instead of trying to fix someone. A lot of guys have trouble with this one.
Own the Gap in Understanding – Approach every communication as if there’s a gap of understanding. Even if you think you know everything about the situation, you don’t. You have biases and BOO. You can always ask additional and better questions to get to a more mutual (it may never be 100%) understanding. This can only come from the heart.
My good friends, Matthew & Terces Engelhardt, have authored a couple of books that I recommend. Sacred Commerce deals with developing Kokoro level thinking, communications, and behavior in the workplace. Kindred Spirits deals with developing loving, trusting relationships. I have spent several retreats with them on their off-the-grid farm in Hana, Hawaii, and offer the following “superpowers” from our conversations. I recorded a podcast with both of them which can be found at my personal website markdivine.com, or at iTunes.
The following “superpower tools” they have tested and found to be groundbreaking with the employees at the Engelhardt’s Café Gratitude chain of restaurants. They are worth studying and practicing on your Unbeatable Mind Kokoro Mountain journey!
- Take 100% responsibility for the condition of all your relationships – With my own family, I had to learn to take responsibility for my relationships. No matter how much I felt someone wronged me, the only person who could own that was me.
- Don’t take the upsets of others personally. – Just because someone else is upset doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. There’s a reason they’re upset. But don’t take it on. In the Coronado Brewing Company saga, I got this super long, negative letter in a thick envelope from my brother-in-law’s mom. When I got it, I threw it away. Later on, I saw her at a board meeting, and she asked if I had gotten her letter. I said, “Yeah, I got your letter, but I didn’t read it.” She said, “That’s unbelievable! I can’t believe that!” It might have seemed rude, but I didn’t want to take her anger at me personally and let her vitriol and negativity poison our relationship.
- Recognize the potential and contribution of others – That’s not just an idea, it needs to be a practice. Every day take time to acknowledge other people. It’s powerful.
- Choose to be grateful regardless of your circumstances – Whatever happens, there’s always something positive to be thankful for. A great exemplar is Nelson Mandela. He was in jail but taught his jailer English. Then he went back once he was released and thanked his jailers and captors. He was grateful for being alive, regardless of being incarcerated. Sometimes it takes time and distance to be grateful. Over time I learned to be grateful for the relationship and atrocious communication at Coronado Brewing because of the lessons I learned from it. I call it my emotional MBA
- Ask for what you want with no expectation, and be grateful for what you get – I’m continuing to work on this. A lot of people have trouble asking, because they’re afraid to hear the word, “no.” You can go out and collect some “no’s” for the day. It builds resiliency. Plus, you discover way more people who want to help you than you’re aware of. Sometimes they can’t or won’t for reasons that are none of your business. Some have no interest. But you never find out if you don’t ask. If you want money to start a business you have to ask for it. If you want to be a better communicator you have to ask for feedback. If you want to have an unbeatable mind, you have to ask for coaching and support, etc…
- Create an environment where others are free to tell their truth – this is a big part of how SEAL teams operate. To be ok with the truth means you won’t take it personally when the truth or perceived truth is uncomfortable. You won’t be afraid, to tell the truth when you perceive it will cause discomfort. This is huge. Our culture says you can’t say anything that might be uncomfortable or socially awkward. This stops heartfelt communication and shuts things down. Everyone needs to be free to tell their truth.
I recommend a process called Clearing. Clearing is active listening, from your heart. Then, when it is time to respond, you acknowledge that what you say is a story and what you heard is a story. It may not be the truth or your truth, but it’s their truth. And that’s important. Acknowledge that and say, “what I hear you saying is…” “How does that make you feel?” You’re mirroring back what they’ve said to make sure you understand their perspective. It creates an environment where people are free to share feelings without being judged, scolded or taught. This creates trust.
- Be responsible for your own experience and ask for direct feedback.
- Don’t make assumptions – My fifth-grade teacher used to say, “Don’t assume. It makes an ass out of you and me.” Don’t assume what others think or what you “hear them saying.” You don’t know until you ask.
- Resolve to leave the past in the past – let bygones be bygones. You don’t need to rehash hurts from days, months or years past. Move on.
People want to be heard. They want to feel like you trust and respect them. They want a heartfelt connection. To hear you acknowledge that you might not have gotten it right and that this stuff is hard opens a door for both of you to be vulnerable. It’s uncommon and refreshing. That’s enough to get the energy going that will restore trust. It’s not about winning and someone else losing. What you really want… What we all really want is a connection.
One of the first places I encountered communication requirements was in the SEALS. I had to speak directly and factually, have my dots lined up and research done, to make sure I communicated my expectations.
Through those experiences, and deep work with my team, I’ve discovered that if I’m in alignment with my heart, the words don’t have to be perfect. The feelings they convey will shine through. That’s because hiding behind my communication is my attitude toward other people. I’ve adopted 4 primary attitudes from the Yoga Sutras that will help you communicate from the heart:
Be Friendly Toward Happy People
This sounds the easiest, but it’s actually common to be jealous of happy people, to put them down, or compare yourself to them. Sincere friendship and genuine happiness for their happiness is your best bet. If you have that attitude, it’ll be easy to see someone who’s really happy and be genuinely happy, not falsely happy. You’ll be able to be gracious, spontaneous and even playful.
Be Compassionate to Those Who Are Unhappy
If someone’s living their path, they’ll be happy. If they haven’t found their path or have missed the mark, be compassionate to them. It will make a difference in them. Take the attitude that there but by the grace of God go I. I’ve been unhappy. I appreciated those who were compassionate toward me in those times. I didn’t want them to dote on me, but I could tell when someone really understood my plight. It’s a gracious attitude. As a side effect, you’ll get a lot of personal benefit out of it. It’s freeing to be non-judgmental and appreciate people. When you have compassion for those who are suffering, you stay more connected and less separate.
Be Joyful to Those Who Are Virtuous
Be excited, not just happy, about those who are doing good and virtuous things. It means that they’ve truly found their path and are fulfilling their purpose. People can be happy in their ignorance. Be friendly toward them. But here I’m talking about people who really are virtuous and doing virtuous things. Celebrate them. Give them specific encouragement. It actually makes you and them more humble when it’s given and received authentically.
Ignore, or Deal With, the Mean and Unjust
You have to realize that there are people doing evil things. You can obsess over the tragedies or injustices on your Google news feed. I so often hear, “Oh my gosh, how could this happen?” or “How could God let this happen?” It’s better to ignore all that and realize that there’s good and evil in the world. If it intersects with your life, then you have to deal with it. One of those skillful means is to say “no” or to say, “goodbye, I’m out of here.”
It’s relatively easy to work on the first two. Our culture and media display those virtues constantly. But heartfelt communication is about actually feeling that way in all four cases.
Being joyful for the virtuous is less common. It’s difficult to pay attention to that aspect of your heart. Our individualistic culture measures success by position, rank or salary instead of the success of the team. It trains you to compare yourself to others. When you see people doing virtuous things, you think, “why can’t I do that?” Instead of “Go, man, go!” I could easily think, “I don’t stack up to Elon Musk.” But if I say that to myself, I won’t be joyful for his success.
Dealing with the wicked is really challenging. It’s also the area of greatest growth for most people. When I started Coronado Brewing I didn’t see my brother-in-laws’ negative behavior. Over time I saw them do and say mean, self-serving, arrogant and prideful things like they were trying to fill out the 7 deadly sins. I got blindsided by their actions. For years I had to deal with that pain. In addition, I’ve had to deal with the rest of my family dysfunction. It would have been so useful to know, much less master some of these skills early on.
Exercise: Heartfelt Communication
Reflect upon, visualize and think through the 5 people you spend the most time with.
- What’s their language?
- What’s their physiology?
- Are there any patterns that indicate negativity?
- Do they talk about ideas or people?
- Are they gossipers?
- Are they optimistic or pessimistic?
- Are they scarcity or abundance minded?
- Are they can or can’t do people?
- Are they naysayers or supporters?
- Asking these questions will help you identify the negative people in your life or the people you’re stuck with.
If you’re stuck with someone, plan and conduct a critical conversation with that person, especially if it’s someone you want or need in your life.
If you’re stuck with a negative person that you don’t want to be in a relationship with, come up with a strategy of how to deal with them.
Journal the answers to the above questions, your plan for both types of people in your life and the results of your conversations.
Great work on this powerful lesson. Climbing the Kokoro Mountain is a precious journey. Stay awake, remain on guard for the negative people and dysfunctional communications going on all around you. And, be present to your own negativity and dysfunctional behavior! Kokoro mountain is hard work, a lifetime of it… but it is eminently worth the effort.
– Mark Divine