Enrolment in progress…
When someone is advising you about a bad character trait that you possess, do you take the defensive line and try to interject with justifications for your behaviour?
Now, I am no psychology expert, but from my observation of people – and of myself – I have found that many of us have a real phobia about ever being wrong about anything and therefore defend our ‘valour’ to the end.
“The only reason I get worked up is because you work me up first!” comes the easy escape answer.
And suddenly, the blame is transferred onto somebody else.
“You are too sensitive to some of the things I do. C’mon grow a think skin!”
Yet another dismissive answer that can leave the advisor feeling foolish for having raised the issue.
But what does finding excuses for our behaviour really help us in the end?
I was once watching cricket with a relative who was oblivious to the fact that I actually understood the rules of the sport. As we sat there, he kept imposing his incorrect interpretation of the rules on me, until I could take no more.
“No,” I said politely. “I think the rule is that when the ball touches the ground before reaching the boundary rope, the batsman gets four runs.”
But he was certain that it was six runs.
“I have been watching this game forever,” he responded. “It’s six runs!”
What ensued was a tiring episode of exchanges as I tried to show him how the batting score increased by four runs each time the batsman hit the ball to the boundary, via the ground.
“They are cheating this player of runs,” he finally exclaimed. “He’s meant to get six runs but they are giving him four instead. How come the team hasn’t noticed this yet?!”
After that statement, I gave up. If he could believe that everyone – from the match officials and commentators to the scorekeepers – was wrong, then there was nothing that could convince him that I was any wiser.
At some point, though, I sensed that he knew he was wrong but just too proud to admit to it.
I know it’s hard to admit to being faulty, defective and wrong – and also, I know that some people don’t approach us with genuine concern for us, but with the desire to bring us down or embarrass us.
But what if we were more humble more often and took into consideration what other people said or suggested?
After all, we are not islands. We live in community with other people; other people whose emotions we must take into consideration if we are to live in harmony. And we therefore have to be attuned to their sensitivities and their thoughts about us. Also, we have to be willing to accept that someone may know better than us about something. In short, we have to be open to learning new ways.
I remember how I used to feel offended whenever someone came up to me to say that something I had said or done was disrespectful or thoughtless.
“But you don’t get it,” I would retort. “You don’t know the bigger picture about how I was feeling when I said that!”
Sadly, some very good advice rendered over the years has crashed and rebounded against the firm wall of my resistance because I thought I knew better.
Now, with a more mature outlook, I realise that it’s better to be advised than to be left in ignorance.
They say ignorance is bliss but I beg to differ. Enlightenment gives you a broader perspective on things and empowers you to decide to continue as before, or to make changes to accommodate the thoughts and feelings of others.
These days, when I meet new people, I always ask myself,
“What can I learn from you?”
The lesson may be good and it may be bad. But make no mistake, everyone on this planet will teach you something if you are open enough.
We are all students in the school of life, which offers us a vast range of syllabi from which to learn and therefore grow.