1. Don’t judge.
When my mom had cancer, I was studying for the Bar. Luckily that meant I had time to take her to some of her doctor’s appointments. This made me feel pretty good about myself. I envisioned myself a little Mother Teresa and an extra jewel going into my crown in heaven.
But at one point, I had the passing thought, I’m a little annoyed that I have to wait for 10 hours in this windowless waiting room watching reruns of HGTV (which I still cannot stand watching to this day because it reminds me of hospital waiting rooms).
And I know you all must be saying, YOUR MOM HAS CANCER! STOP CARING ABOUT YOURSELF AND FOCUS ON HER, YOU UNGRATEFUL $@#&#$!!!!
And you’re right. It was a terrible petty thought. And I never said any of this to her. A few months after surgery, she was done with treatment. And she has been in remission for over a decade. #thankGod
But we are allowed to have our terrible thoughts.
The Terrible Truth about Humans
We are all petty. We are all complain-y. You know what? Mother Teresa complained too. At least I assume she did.
Each of us is imperfect. And we want to be accepted despite this. The problem is that we forget that every other person is also looking for that. And we are not as forgiving of others as we hope they will be to us.
We are all matchsticks. We keep scratching and picking at each other and then get surprised when someone catches on fire.
Sometimes we rub and poke at someone and when they haven’t started a fire, we exalt. Hey I’ve found a water balloon!
But nope, we are all a set of matchsticks. With the right scratches and picks, we are all combustible. And the worst part is that we don’t know what exactly will cause a spark to set someone else’s fire.
I see this so often – so much picking and prodding and people are surprised when something bad happens.
So to start listening to people, think about your worst thoughts and your worst behavior. And then realize that whatever the other person is going to say, maybe it’s not their best moment. But you’ve been there sometime before. Don’t judge.
2. Don’t discuss your fights (especially on social media) until you can cast yourself as the villain.
There are three main reasons for this.
First, is that once you tell the story, you will reinforce your idea of what happened. There are two sides to every story and yours isn’t necessarily more right.
The second is that you’ll get bad advice. There’s a certain type of response that will go well on social media and that’s not one that is empathetic. The people who follow YOU will try to make YOU feel better. You know the people who follow you on social media are on your side no matter what. They also
And the peanut gallery will reward people who do that. But what doesn’t help your relationship is getting proof that you’re right. Because it doesn’t matter who’s right or not. This is not a court of law.You have two sticks of wood burning – it doesn’t matter who started it if you care at all about preserving each other.
Even if no one reads your social media profile, you are putting the anger out into the world. It’s like what the Buddhists say that you can’t punch a pillow to get rid of your anger because you are creating violence.
Third, you poison others.
When I think about the regrets I have in my past relationships, I wish I wouldn’t have poisoned my friends against my ex. Because it was awkward for them when we got back together. And that wasn’t their fault. They were prepped to dislike him. And I know that if my ex had told his friends about the stuff I did, it would have mortified me.
So keep your fights private. And if you can, cast the other person as the hero.
3. Don’t believe everything you think.
There’s that classic scene in Friends where Chandler doesn’t realize these untold rules.
Chandler: Okay, well Janice said “Hi, do I look fat today?” So I looked at her…
Ross: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You looked at her? You never look. You just answer, it’s like a reflex. Do I look fat? No! Is she prettier than I am? No! Does size matter?
Ross: And it works both ways.
Chandler never meant to say that Janice was fat. He didn’t mean to imply it.
We all know that this is often what actually happens in relationships – men and women take things that are innocent and make them terrible in their minds.
I read this great line about communication: “Never assume you know what they mean or that they understand you.”
Conclusion- How to listen
Being a lawyer means you have less chance to judge people because you’re there to help, to listen, to advocate. Maybe everyone can take a lesson here. We are no better. We are no worse. The important thing is to be the biggest advocate for someone else.