3 Tips for Letting Go of What Other People Think

This is a true story.

We’ll never know what the other person’s thinking.

My friend, Sue, is just about completely blind, yet is HIGHLY functional and lives a very full life within her family and her community.

One week, Diane joined Sue’s parenting group.  Sue began to hear something in Diane’s voice that sounded increasingly cold and eventually hostile and defensive.

This continued for several weeks and Sue worried about it.  Why was Diane responding so poorly?  What could Sue do to reach her?  This sort of thing just didn’t happen to Sue very often and began to bother her more and more.

Sue’s formerly nurtured and nurturing experience in the parenting group degraded to a place where Sue couldn’t think about anything else.  She talked with empathy buddies and mentors about it; worked the situation through the process of Nonviolent Communication; and used all of her other Jedi Mind Tricks to try to understand this woman’s hostility and to make peace with it.

Sue had finally begun to be OK about the whole thing when Diane approached her after a group meeting and blurted out, “Why won’t you smile back at me?  You’ve ignored me from the first time I came here.  Have I done something to offend you?”

Diane didn’t know that Sue was blind. So when Sue failed to return her smiles, while looking directly at Diane, Diane made some assumptions about Sue.

If you’ve spent time worried about what you THINK someone else is thinking about you (like I have), maybe these tips will help bring some ease back to your life.

Stop Trying to Control Others

I was shocked to realize that wanting you to like me was bordering on manipulative.   Now, I try to start encounters by saying silently to myself, “I wish for this person to be happy.”  And that usually reminds me who isn’t in charge, namely, me.

Know That Their Opinion Can’t Really Hurt You

Your brain is wired to build alliances to stay alive.  We don’t actually need a tribe that will protect us from the wildebeest anymore.  And trying to figure out what someone else is thinking is a useless exercise at best, and a heart stopper at worst.

Practice Acceptance

The greatest source of discomfort for me is believing that a situation or person SHOULD be other than what it is.  When do we accept and when do we try to change?   When I catch myself thinking a person should be different than they are, I use “May you be filled with loving kindness.  May you be at peace and at ease.  May you be well.  May you be free of suffering.  May you be happy.”

It’s a journey

On occasion, I’m still tormented by what I think others think of me.  And I do still catch myself caring deeply about what’s going on for you, instead of what’s going on for me.  But, really?  I’m so much more interested in what I think and feel, these days.  I’m finding myself to be a rich source of contemplation, and with plenty of material to work on.

How about you?  Are you bothered by what you think other people think?  Do you have a technique that’s working for you?  Let me know in the comments section below.

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