Are you feeling peaceful today? Or do you wish you were?
Carefully choosing the people you hang out with is one way of having more inner peace. Because other people can have a huge impact on your inner peace — both negatively — and positively.If you look for people who are role models of being calm in stressful times and then be around those people, you’ll learn how they do it!
My friend Margaret is a great example of this. Margaret is a college professor and a psychotherapist… neither one of which is a stress-free profession! But somehow Margaret has managed to cultivate calm so the people around her tend to feel calm too.
And here’s an important thing I learned from Margaret… when you’re calm even though the people around you are getting reactive, losing their heads, and falling all over themselves… when you can keep your cool when all about you are losing theirs… surprisingly good things can happen.
Let me tell you about a time when that happened to me…
Margaret and I were on a trip to Mexico. We’d gone to a psychotherapy conference and decided to do some sightseeing in Mexico City before heading to the airport to fly home.
Because it was the 1980s, long before email and cell phones and all our modern ways of keeping tabs on travel, we arrived at the airport blissfully ignorant of what we were about to find…
As we approached the ticket counter for our airline, we could tell that something was wrong. There was a crowd of upset people in front of the counter, many of them arguing, pleading, even pounding on the counter. From where we stood, we could see the ticket agents shaking their heads over and over again.
Rumors were flying. From what we overheard, we gathered that our flight had been canceled and there was no other flight. People were being told there was nothing to be done.
I might have tended to get nervous at that point. I was in a foreign country, I didn’t know the language, and I was not a seasoned traveler. But Margaret was calm. “Let’s wait and see,” was her attitude.
We hung back until the crowds cleared away so we were the last people there. When we came up to the ticket counter, the agents eyed us warily, expecting more shouting and pounding when they explained to us that, yes, the flight had been canceled and there were no other flights.
With complete calm, and a gentle, friendly voice, Margaret said to them, “So, what shall we do?”
I could see the ticket agents relax. They were not going to get yelled at by two more irate travelers.
It was as if with her calm, friendly statement, Margaret created an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration.
They even offered to let us come behind the counter to use their phone to call our husbands to let them know about the delay.
Yes, we slept that night sitting up in the airport. But the next morning we were on a plane for home without paying any more and without further delay. And best of all, I learned something important about the power of remaining calm and curious.
I’ve often remembered that moment when Margaret said to the ticket agent, “So, what shall we do?” I’ve used that line myself when I’ve come up against obstacles while dealing with another person… and it’s amazing how often those obstacles melt.What happens to you when things go awry? When your plane gets canceled? When the water heater breaks? When your neighbor has a noisy party just when you have to get some sleep?
Very likely your first reaction, like mine, is to REACT! Snap, berate, moan, fuss. Hey, that’s understandable. But it’s better if that’s not the place you’re coming from when you communicate.
So when things fall apart, and you start to react emotionally, here’s what I recommend doing so you can come back to calm:
ONE – Pause. Just pause. Putting a space between what triggered you and your reaction is such an empowering thing to do. Into that space, wisdom has a chance to come.
TWO – Let your emotion be there but not be in the driver’s seat. My favorite way to do this is with the words “Something in me…” “Something in me is feeling scared, shocked, and wondering what to do… and I am here with all that.”
See, no matter how many emotions are running around, you can still choose to BE your big Self. The one who can be calm.
And THREE – Let any words or actions come from your calm Self. That way, you don’t trigger the other people involved into a reactive cycle as well. They are much more likely to collaborate with you.
And that’s so nice!So here’s to you… having a more peaceful life.