My daughter teaches me many things on an ongoing basis. I find myself looking at her every day and wondering where children get their wisdom, kindness and love from. Is it all innate and natural? Are we all born with this?
Sample Scenario 1:
Earlier this week, I was trying to prepare dinner and a child started howling in the corridor outside our home. The cry was a piercing, shrieking one, the kind that gets on your nerves and makes you want to cause serious damage!
Just as I was about to step out and ask the kid to put a lid on it, Gy piped up in a soft voice, ‘Poor kid. I wonder why he’s crying. I guess he must be hungry or sleepy.’ The next second, she went back to reading her comic book. I, on the other hand, was standing frozen in the same spot.
We talk about empathy and not judging another. We speak of walking in the other’s shoes. We try our best to understand where people are coming from. And yet, with all that practice, I still let a crying child bring out the sleeping dragon in me. But, a seven-year-old had the instinctive response of sympathy , without forethought.
This got me thinking. So what happens then as we grow older? Do we lose that connection with the better part of our selves? Or do we just let Life and its anxieties overwhelm us to such an extent that we start suppressing our natural responses and react instead to external ‘irritations’?
Sample another scenario:
You have an argument with a relative/ your partner. He/she has criticised you over something, say, a dish you prepared with a lot of effort. In defense, you rise up, let loose some choice words and the ugliness hangs in the air for a long time. The mood is effectively spoilt and you have a raging headache and a mutinous glare to show for it too! This is because you REACT to the stimulus.
So, wait. What if we were to RESPOND instead? The whole problem emerges from the fact that we take an insult personally. What if the criticism is aimed at the action instead of the person? When the criticism reaches you, pause for a second and think: Okay, she doesn’t like the dish. It’s not ME that she doesn’t like. Let’s take it from there.
You cannot control what other people say, but you can control how you react to what they say. ‘Pause and respond‘ is an action that I have grown to love these days. It keeps me calm, lowers my defenses and makes me more open and receptive to people.
Same scenario, different outcome. And a much better one, don’t you agree?
This principle is one that can be applied across all relationships, whether it’s the parent-child dynamic, the spouses at loggerheads, the connection between friends or the bond between the sets of in-laws.
As always, I believe we have a choice. We can choose to respond and not react. This will happen if we try and do it gradually, every step of the way and every moment of the day.
It makes it even easier when we have children around to show us how to take those baby steps, one response at a time.