#4 in the Love Is Action series
When you live with, or interact with, someone who acts like a jerk, you have the power to exponentially improve the situation. It may not feel like it, but you do. You have total control over how you respond to them.
One of the most effective ways to help yourself is to help that person to feel better about themselves. One way to do that is to ask questions that you know they’ll have the answer to. In fact, you may already have the answer, or you may be able to easily find the answer. It doesn’t matter if you really want the answer or not. Asking the question is for the other person to feel better, which will act to improve the other person’s mood.
When you ask someone a question that is his or her field of expertise or personal experience, that person has the ability to respond confidently, which gives them a sense of satisfaction and value. In short, we all feel better when we can confidently answer a question or when someone has recognized our ability, expertise, or life experiences.
You might have to work at finding something relevant to ask. But it’s worth the effort. When a person who doesn’t feel well physically, emotionally, financially, or in any other way, feels that he or she is of some value, their mood improves and they’re easier to be with.
Some examples of the types of questions we can ask are, “I know you make that delicious salad dressing without a recipe—would you share your secret with me and teach me how to make it?” Or “The world has changed so much—would you tell me what it was like when you were growing up?” Or “What’s your secret to having the best garden in the neighborhood?” Or, “I don’t understand how Snapchat works. Would you teach me how to use it? .” Even if you have the recipe right in front of you or you can go on the internet to find the answer within seconds, ask questions, preferably open ended ones.
When we ask questions of people, we’re showing them respect and giving them dignity, which are two things we all need. Respect and dignity are the building blocks that can help restore a broken person. And every bit of information and knowledge cannot be found on the internet or in a YouTube video. Much of the wisdom of the elders and others among us is locked inside the vault of their knowledge, and unless someone specifically teases it out of them with sincere questions, it may never be released.
Every single one of us knows things that others don’t know. We are each the world's foremost authority on our lives and the stories that only we can tell. We have experienced things that others have not--things which have been woven into the fabric of our beliefs and opinions. We know how to do things that others may not know how to do, and some of those things are from times past. Many people nowadays feel devalued because who they are and what they know how to do are not valued in our culture. We each have the power to change that. Our power starts with considering where the other person is in life, what they feel, and why they feel and act the way they do.
For example, a waitress in a diner who for decades has cheerfully greeted her customers, remembers what her
regulars order, and makes conversation with them, which helps them to feel connected and valuable, used to feel valued and connected to her customers. But our present culture doesn’t value this precious person. Customers come in and don’t even lift their eyes from their phones long enough to make eye contact with her.
She doesn’t have thousands of social media followers. She barely earns enough money to live. She has no retirement or savings to speak of. Property taxes have increased almost to the point that she can’t afford to live in the modest little home she worked so hard to buy. And over the years, she has developed aches and pains to the point that she can barely carry the hot plates from the kitchen to her customer’s tables. She can’t afford to stop working, so she feels trapped. If that were your story, you’d be grouchy too.
Imagine looking this lady in the eyes and sincerely saying, “How in the world do you carry all those plates without spilling anything? I give you a lot of credit!” By recognizing what a person does and giving them an authentic compliment, we give dignity. When a person gets a shot of dignity, they feel better, and consequently, they behave better.
Whether you live or work with someone who is miserable and who treats others accordingly, or you meet someone in the course of your day who appears to be unhappy, try being a dignity-giver, and see what happens.
You have the power to improve the environment by giving dignity. Use your power.
Rhonda Sciortino grew up with a mentally ill man and an alcoholic and addicted woman in an abusive, chaotic, filthy environment. She writes about what she knows "for sure," and one of those things is how to deal with difficult people. Rhonda knows intimately the power of responding to difficult people with authentic kindness and loving actions. For more information about Rhonda, go to https://www.rhonda.org/about. If you like what you read, please share the love.