by Andrea Chilcote
What’s your immediate reaction? What do you say in response? Now, imagine the same thing only this time it’s someone you know — a neighbor say, or a co-worker. Does it feel different when it’s an acquaintance? Is your response different?
I have always considered myself impervious to others’ views of me. Being liked or accepted is just not one of my core needs.
So I was surprised by my reaction to an exercise I participated in this past weekend. The exercise was part of a workshop led by Ann Albers. Ann demonstrated by walking up to an unassuming participant. “I don’t like you!” she declared. The woman cowered a bit and softly replied “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Ann coached. “Just say ‘that’s okay,’ with confidence, and walk away.”
Easy, right? Well, I thought it would be easy for me.
We were instructed to practice with other attendees. The first person who said “I don’t like you” to me was met with my response: “I don’t like you either!”
Wow. An image of my beloved Malamute, Whisper, came to mind. When an aggressive dog approaches Whisper, she takes an even more aggressive stance and growls back ferociously. “Never mind that,” I’ve been telling her, for nearly nine years.
It’s rare that a person says “I don’t like you” out loud. The messages are usually more subtle, but we can sense and feel them. And we make assumptions about people’s feelings toward us based on behaviors we interpret as lack of acceptance. Whisper has reacted many times to a dog’s personality-driven exuberance as if it was aggression directed at her. And because she is a mirror for me, I’m pretty certain I have too.
The lesson of the workshop was, of course, to remain unaffected by the opinions of others. Never mind them. Before Saturday, I would have told you that I was uninfluenced. But I am affected, making up a story of why and how others could come to the conclusion that they don’t like me, and in doing so concluding that they too are unlikeable.
“That’s okay. Never mind that.” What peaceful and disarming responses these are, whether spoken or not. Consider these phrases in relation to self-acceptance. In this context, we’re really saying, “I’m okay” – okay with myself, in full acceptance of my value and worth. We’re saying “never mind” the opinions of others. There’s neither a need to take on their negativity nor “fight to prove I’m right” in the words of music legend Pete Townshend.
Wars are raged between countries and within communities and families because we don’t agree. People make decisions every day to please others and in doing so forego their own needs, purpose and values – often disappointing the very ones they were trying to please.
I do like you. But pretend for a moment that I don’t, and just never mind.
I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven
This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.