People who surround themselves with positivity have an easier time seeing the good in other people. The reverse is also true. People who teach themselves to see the good in others tend to be more positive and experience happiness more deeply. Seeing the good in others requires us to question our assumptions, but, it is worth the effort.
By the time we reach our 50s and 60s, we have had decades to form opinions about others. Some of these are justified and others are based purely on our own biases. As a result, if we want to find true happiness in the second half of our life, we need to remind ourselves to see the good in people.
People, even those who are closest to us, will always be a mystery. We live in our own minds and it is often difficult to determine the motivations of others. Knowing ourselves, we find it easy to justify our own actions. But, we are far less tolerant of others. When we speed to work, we forgive ourselves easily. When we see another person driving erratically, we are quick to label him a jerk.
As you think of positive alternative explanations for the behaviors of others, you will find your anger diminishing and your positivity increasing.
It is also easy to jump to label a person based on too little information. If we year someone yell, we start to think of them as an “angry person”. If a friend rejects an invitation of disagrees with our point of view, we may think that they “don’t like us”. Even worse, once we form an opinion about someone, it is difficult to change our mind and see them in a new light. Reserving judgment is a difficult, yet critical, step on the path to positivity.
They have a unique history and personal story. At the same time, they are more like us than we know. Like you, they are infinitely precious and wonderfully flawed. We cannot know the thoughts of others. But, this is exactly why it is so important to give them the benefit of the doubt. Every interaction with another person is important. It is an opportunity to learn about someone who, like you, it trying to make the most of their life.
Can you think of a time when you jumped to a conclusion about someone? What did the experience teach you?
When we understand our own biases and prejudices, we can compensate for them. We may not be able to let go entirely, but, we can start to identify the buttons that push us to anger.
Sometimes simply being aware of our own triggers can help us to recognize when we are judging others unfairly. And, if we can learn to recognize our anger, perhaps we can learn to replace it with laughter. Maybe we can see the humor in the human experience.
Knowing yourself is not just about avoiding negative emotions; it is also about finding genuine self-acceptance. When, despite your flaws, you see goodness in yourself, you can approach others with an open heart and a fair mind. What do you love most about yourself? Do you look for this trait in others?
Perhaps, recognizing goodness requires us to accept human nature, flaws and all. Every person has something to teach us, if we listen. Even negative people offer us a mirror with which to view our own imperfections and strengths.
As Elisabeth Kubler Ross once said to me “we often criticize the things in other people that we fear most in ourselves.” I believe this with all of my heart.
Are we really angry at the other person? Or, do we secretly see something of ourselves in their behavior? Sometimes you may find a person who really does cause you pain over the long term. When this happens, cut them off.
But, more often than not, behind the curtain of anger or pride, you will find a person begging to be understood.
Listening is an art. It is remarkably difficult to really listen closely to what people are trying to say. Far too often, we are simply waiting for a chance to voice our own opinion. When we seek to understand first and be understood second, we cannot help but see the good in others.
Listen with all of your heart and you will be repaid many times over with understanding and positivity.
We forgive ourselves just as easily as we blame others. In doing so, we cut ourselves off from a valuable source of happiness and positivity. When we seek to understand – really understand – the motivations and thoughts of others, we cannot help but see the good in them. And, when we look for the good in others, we suddenly find that we are not alone.
We are on a journey together and we have so much to teach each other. When we look for the good in others, more often than not, we find the good in ourselves. And, nothing will bring us closer to true happiness than an acceptance of ourselves.
Take 5 minutes to think about the people closest to you. Can you think of a time when you judged them unfairly? Think about how much happier you would have felt if you asked them kindly and without judgment to explain themselves.
Do you agree that learning to see the good in others is one of the keys to happiness at any age? What do you do when you start to get angry with someone to defuse the situation? Please join the conversation.