On page 19 of the big book is says- “Most of us sense that real tolerance of other people’s shortcomings and viewpoints and a respect for their opinions are attitudes which make us more useful to others.”
Much of our day involves communicating with others. Sometimes people express views that may go against ours. We may be tempted to react by disagreeing or arguing. Other times they may express strong emotions or treat us poorly. We may feel the urge to react and lose our temper. If we fight back we may destroy our chances of being helpful. If we do nothing and just take it- we may get angry, become resentful, judge them or talk behind their backs. What can we do?
The following practice is a neutral approach to accept others without having to agree, disagree, retaliate or take their comments personally. A.A. calls it “understanding rather than being understood.” Pg. 101 Twelve & Twelve
Here is the practice: We simply try to understand others rather than agreeing or disagreeing. We focus on staying calm, listening and reflecting back what we hear them saying- but in our own words.
Focusing on what they say rather than how we think or feel removes the temptation to oppose or take their strong emotions to heart. It places us in a position of neutrality where we can show understanding- while remaining safe and protected.
Here’s an example: If a person is irate and says “I don’t like this meeting because it’s not the same as other meetings” we might say something like “What I hear you saying is… you like it when meetings are identical”.
We simply remain calm & tell them in our own words what we hear them saying.
If we wanted to show understanding of their feelings instead of their view- we might have said “I can tell you feel pretty strongly about that.” Either way, we are literally showing them that we understand them.
To summarize, by the practice of “showing understanding” we don’t take their emotions or views upon ourselves so they have no power over our well-being. Also, this practice keeps us from trying to “fix” them. You will remain in a position of neutrality- safe and protected. This works especially well when people are emotionally disturbed and taking their anger out on you, being mean to you, trying to tell you what to do or that your views and feelings are wrong.
The meeting is open for the remaining time for a role play, questions and discussion. Are there two people willing to volunteer so we can demonstrate this practice before we open up for sharing? It will be fun.
This concludes our meeting. Keep coming back and let us know about your spiritual experiences with these practices. This information is repeated each week. It will become more and more familiar with every meeting.
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