In the third in a series of 'tools for the whole person’s success' articles, Ande Schurr explores how to deal with friends and family to improve your business and life.
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There is no topic richer with emotion, or riper for discussion, than how to deal with friends and family.
With the right friend or family member we can share our problems, get the weight of the world off our shoulders - and possibly get unique insights - feeling a lighter, freer person.
When there is no understanding, harmony or objectivity, because our family and friends are simply different people from us, maybe even not very nice people, then it can be a lonely existence.
What is the essence of a friend? Someone who has an affinity for us and is concerned for our well being. Yet if the concern is insincere or really about the other person thinking they know what is best for us, then we can feel more lonely with than without them.
I base this post on a talk that David Samuel gave to my Meetup Group, Best Freelance Practices Auckland.
I find his understanding of the human condition deep and clear. Because David can see a problem purely from another person’s perspective, he can discover creative solutions to virtually any issue they may be having in business or life. Here is what I gained from his talk, this is my interpretation:
1. Family is in Our Control
We must be in a family who support our desires, health and lifestyle.
We must choose who we want to associate with and be close to.
We must decide what we want to do with our lives.
It doesn’t mean we cut off family members. It just means we will not spend as much time with them as with those who really understand us and are a positive influence and help us keep propelling forwards in life.
2. Most Advice is Wrong
When people give you advice, they give their own opinion on what is good for them, not you; they consult their experience and by-pass your situation.
To be considerate and compassionate is to put yourself in the head of another person and try to see things from their perspective.
Keep this in mind to remind you: If you have four kids then theoretically you will be giving them four different pieces of career advice.
3. We Attract Better People into our Lives by Changing Ourselves
We don’t have the people we know we must associate with because they are not interested in us. We are not their type of person, we are not ready for them or worthy of their company.
However by starting to see things from the other person’s perspective we become more selfless and this changes the way people respond to us.
4. We Find What We Want to Do in Life by Deciding Who We Want to Be in Life
Doing is just the outer layer. Being is what matters. It’s the hub of the wheel. The silent, invisible part of us that makes us sleep well at night if it is being looked after, or sleep fitfully if there is unrest, guilt, pain within us.
The frightfully wasteful pre-occupation with finding one’s true occupation could be all but eliminated if we decided what kind of person we wanted to be first: A selfless person. A more objective person. A better artist. A smarter business person. Even a better crook! Yes it can work both ways. Those people are looking for like-souls, those with a similar interest to ‘be’ a certain kind of person and may be interested in you if you have a genuine interest and open mind.
5. A More Open Mind makes One Person Better than Another
In our group of friends, best not be the smartest one. Better to be the least smartest so that through association with our friends we become smarter.
A more open mind, more objective, more considerate, more ability to change and reform oneself - these are the qualities that make one person better than another who has a closed mind and can’t see past their own problems.
6. We become Impervious to Attacks when We Try Not to Impose our Will on Others
In order to resist when others try to control us and impose their will on us, we have to function differently from them.
We must consciously consider others at all times and put great attention into never imposing our will on another person.
That way, we build an immunity to being susceptible and influenced by others and we can make our own decisions. The goal is to become unaffected. That doesn’t mean uncaring. It just means you don’t get sulky when someone does something differently than what you had hoped for.
With a plethora of social expectations about what couples do, or fathers or mothers or best friends, we have to work extra hard to remember that the most important quality of all is freedom, love and allowing another person to feel it from you.
This exercise below will help us become unaffected by our environment:
David’s Exercise 1: Awareness at a Cafe
Go to a busy public place, cafe, restaurant, and pay attention to every sound you hear. Register the conversations that every one is having. Expand your mind beyond your own narrow view of life, of what is affecting you, you hear someone drop the glass, that one is cutting food, that one is talking about this and that one about that.
It expands your mind beyond your normal human nature. As you do that you’ll become more aware of how there is so much going on beyond the confines of your normal human view. Do that as often as possible and you increase your intuition, your awareness, level of being awake and present, then you start to respond to any little needs that come up wherever you are.
You become more impervious to the influences on you when you expand your mind to be more aware of other people and their needs.
7. Accept You Will Make Mistakes
We simply have to accept this. However the real issue is, having made the mistake - put your foot in your mouth and said something stupid, or whatever it was - you can recover very quickly by learning from it and never making it again.
This is a point of immeasurable value. We have to actually want to eliminate that flaw within us.
“I would have understood this, why didn’t they”
If it’s to do with how somebody interpreted something we told them, then clearly we are wrong. Even if we did everything right, the fact that we thought ‘well, I would have understood this, why didn’t they’, is very subjective and only objectivity can be right.
There are other flaws too which will influence how we communicate with friends and family: Being late to things, being unorganised, leaving communication till the last minute, not preparing for something properly…
If we do not believe we can eliminate the mistake entirely then we will not put in the effort to watch for its reappearance and so keep on making it.
We must just accept that we are fallible, then resolve to correct or never repeat again whatever mistake we made.
8. Remove the Buttons People can Push
It’s one thing to cut off a person in your life who ‘pushes your buttons’ but that doesn’t solve the problem. You still have a button that anyone can push if they get to know you well enough, and when it’s pushed, you’ll loose control!
We can’t possibly graduate to a human being with self-control if we have these buttons all over us waiting to be pushed by anyone who can get close enough!
The exercise below of the cloud is David’s way to prepare our minds to be unaffected by what anyone says or does. The goal is to never be bothered by anyone and aware of what is needed by everyone.
David’s Exercise 2: Be like a Cloud
Have this as your thought: “Let me improve myself so that I become just like a cloud”
You know the cloud is the most powerful force in nature. A black cloud can blot out the sun. and turn day into night. With a cloud an aeroplane can fly right through it and the cloud doesn’t seem at all phased. So the cloud has more power than the sun. It can’t be touched or influenced in any way. Now that is power.
Our philosophy is to become like a cloud, to have great power and influence, or to do what is needed while being impervious. So in that way, by being more objective, we are considering in every situation what is suitable to the other person.
The cloud can give shade from the burning sun. Or rain when it is needed. Or be a pretty white puffy cloud in the blue sky for the artist to paint a picture. Through it all no one can make me do anything I don’t want to do.
9. Find or Organise A Group
When you have decided on what you want to be in life, then naturally you will want to be around similar people. So you find a group or make one with a topic of interest for you.
“It’s a numbers game”
You can’t underestimate the power of numbers. For every 1000 people you come across in your group, maybe five of them are the sincere ones you are looking for.
Things of great value are harder to find. So a great effort is needed to keep looking in groups, creating your own groups, trying to find those few friends of value.
10. We Are Weak Because We Are Selfish
We do things we don’t want to because we lack the will power to resist.
We are weak because we know we are selfish, thinking only of ourselves, and, when giving advice, not really putting our minds in the other person’s situation. This guilt builds up and makes us give in to all sorts of situations.
The better we become as a person, by understanding that everyone has the right to their point of view, be it to hate me or just not want to associate with me, then the better our self-esteem. Because that is allowing others to be free. A free person is free because they are respectful of others time, efforts, and opinions and see things from the other person’s point of view.