‘It is only when you accept how different you all are, that you will be able to see how much the same you all are. Don’t expect anybody to be the same as you, then you will see that you are in many ways the same as everybody.’ C. JoyBell C.
Almost a decade ago, a client told me that the mantra she adopted in her marriage was ‘do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?’ She said this single resolve had made the biggest difference in their relationship.
These are wise words – not just in your partner relationship, but for every interaction you have with another person.
One of the core principles of mindfulness is we aim to approach our experiences without judgement. This is incredibly difficult, particularly when it comes to relationships. We’re actually hard-wired to judge people – in fact, it’s a primal instinct, developed in cavemen days when it helped us to identify members of our clan and those who were likely to be a source of danger.
The problem is, when we spend our time making decisions about who’s right, who’s wrong and whose ideas are good or bad, we immediately create barriers. The moment you decide another person is wrong, you start building a wall around yourself and that wall begins to serve as mini fortress. Your instinct is to protect your kingdom and the other person protects theirs and everyone gets a bit defensive, even if it’s not particularly overt.
Most of us can sense when someone’s demeanour changes and we can usually feel the same shift in ourselves. We may not verbally defend ourselves but our body language says it all.
The first step in changing this dynamic is to notice and name your experience. Watch for signs that walls are going up and acknowledge that you’re ‘wanting to be right’. Under your breath, you might even try saying, “I want to be happy, I don’t need to be right”. Then take a couple of breaths to give yourself time to think about how you can drop your defences.
Genuinely try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Ask them a question (not in an attacking or accusing way) about why they feel their position is important. Do your best to be curious and open-minded – it can be tricky at first, but with practise it becomes easier.
You may find in the end you can simply acknowledge your differences and agree to disagree. When you do that from a place of openness and mutual respect, it’s the most liberating feeling in the world.