Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to Survive Life Undamaged

How does one survive life undamaged? Seriously... if you figure it out let me know. I particularly mean self-inflicted damage. You can't guarantee anything about how other people act or think.

Here is what I have tried (am trying):

1. Be willing to listen to others.

You don't have to listen to everyone, but be aware that you risk losing valuable perspective and insight, even if it is insight about how not to do things. You should probably be willing to listen to some people that you have shut out. If you are not uncomfortable, then you are not growing.

Everyone has a story. You can either imagine a person's story, categorize and label them, and treat them as if that story is true, or you can actually listen. You can listen to what someone believes while thinking about why they're wrong and how you will show them, or you can try to inhabit their space and see the world the way they see it. You don't have to stay there, but you will take lessons from it.

2. Be skeptical by default.

To listen to others and inhabit their space does not mean uncritically accepting their ideas. You can be empathetic, you can entertain an idea, without being swept away. You can also question if a person is wrong without imagining they are your enemy.

If some idea pushes through your skepticism, accept it. It is OK to move a little closer towards an "opposite" view.

3. Don't try to convince everyone.

This can be particularly painful when it is someone you respect and/or love. It may take time. Or it may never be. Life is sour sometimes. Don't make it more sour than it needs to be.

If you are skeptical by default, then maybe others are as well? If you are listening to others and inhabiting their space, then you must know that it will not be easy to convince everyone. You can let that bother you. You can turn it into an obsession, or you can focus on the good (what little you estimate there to be) and seek friendship.

These are three things you can try. If you refuse to listen to others and make it your life goal to convince everyone how they're wrong. You will have a life filled with stress and bitterness. Or you could listen--critically--and seek friendship over rightness.

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