5 Things to Do in 2022 to Be a Better Person
We all have times to look back on and reflect that we weren’t the best version of ourselves. We paint a picture on social media of a life that is together and flawless. We envy others who seem to have a better life than we do. We are so focused on what others are doing that we don’t take enough time to reflect inward.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”– Ghandi
As we enter a new year with old vices like arguing over vaccinations, masks, politics, and whatnot, what simple steps can we take to be better than we were in 2021?
We don’t listen enough. Someone comes to us with a problem and we immediately reflect on a similar problem we had and how we handled it. We turn their problem into a story about us. This is not empathy. This is self-centered.
Listen to what they say. Let a few moments of silence go by so they can complete their sentences and thoughts.
Even with strangers, listen. When you are in line at the grocery store, listen to life conversations happening around you. (Ok, this is a little bit of eavesdropping). You’ll get a better collective reflection of what’s going on in the world around you and the challenges people are facing. You’ll be more socially smart as to the world outside your bubble.
I’ve done Shipt deliveries a few months now. Let me tell you what I’ve heard.
- For some people, the price of $1 between generic eggs and name brand eggs is a deal breaker. Money is that tight.
- Others are dealing with 5 kids, whom they lump the husband into that group, and need a little bit of grace as their order changes constantly. When I sense someone is really having a rough time, I buy then some flowers and leave it with their order just to say “You deserve flowers.”
- Grocery store workers can’t win. You are mad they are taking up the aisle stocking up. You are mad there isn’t enough in stock. You take it out on the person making $15 an hour (if lucky) and you berate them. They have no choice but to take it. What I see and hear is someone hustling to make sure goods get on the shelves with little to no thanks. If you see a grocery worker, thank them for their work. They are doing “unprecedented” work as well.
Listening helps you be able to better handle our next goal.
Accept their viewpoint
I once read in a book a summary of a statement that went something like this.
“Know that when you are arguing with a person, they feel just as strongly about their viewpoint as you do about yours.”
We tend to think we are already right based on our information, history, and experiences. You don’t know the other person’s history and experiences.
I remember the first time I went to vote having just turned 18. It was a big deal in our family. I went with my mom. As we walked in she said, “Vote for whomever you want.. as long as they are Republican.” My house was a “I Like Ike” house with a fondness for Ronald Reagan that still looms in my political heart today. Long before I could form my own political opinion, it was given to me. It took me until my late 20’s to start looking at other parties to see what they are all about. What am I now? Doesn’t matter. I’m a politically involved and intelligent person who makes decisions based on people instead of along party lines. I remember the first time I voted for a Democrat in a Las Vegas race and I tweeted obscurely, “Well, Hell has frozen over.”
I had a friend who was anti-mask and I was pro-mask. I am not sure which one of us was right. She was a beautiful soul and that friend who always made you feel better about yourself no matter what challenges life had in store. Our friendship dissolved because I was not willing to accept her side in a social post that I felt insulted people who didn’t eat an organic lifestyle. I took it personally. I was hurt. The safest friendship space I knew was now a judgy zone.
I will always regret that I didn’t just accept her viewpoint and move on. For all the amazing friendships things we had in step, I let one dissidence ruin it. I attempted to discuss the post with her and she said “My opinion doesn’t matter” and I fired back “It does to me.”
I am sure this friend and I never voted for the same candidates, we never shopped at the same stores, and we never had the same viewpoints on relationships. Yet our differences connected like a puzzle piece. She was simply doing what she felt was right for her family. I did what I felt was right for mine.
We should let people think and feel differently that we do individually. Isn’t that what makes America great?
Do something nice for someone with no expectations
In a freelance article I am working on, I learned about an Arabian culture that has a philosophy on gifts that you have no obligation to repay someone. It’s never a learned thing to feel you “owe” someone something when you do something nice.
I recently had a group of friends step up to help me, and instead of feeling gracious, I felt guilty. My independence was stronger than my understanding of that’s what friends do.
To complicate matters more, I am the first person to give. I give to every friend and family member who has a child raising money for whatever. I’ve gotten wrapping paper, cookies, the stalest popcorn ever, stationary and a slew of other items. I bought gifts for my neighbors I mostly know in passing who just had a baby. I am built to give. I am not built to receive.
A week or so after my friends helped me out, I stumbled upon a way to help a new puppy owner in my apartment complex. I gave her a crate, toys, and potty pads I didn’t need any longer. She asked how much it would cost. I told her nothing. All I said was:
“Someday, somehow, someway, you’ll come across someone who needs help. You can pay me back by paying it forward when that happens.”
Grab a coffee for a co-worker, bring home an extra dog toy, bring flowers to the most underappreciated person in your workplace, text a friend who is struggling and remind them you love them.
Forgive like it’s the newest social media trend
I haven’t had the best luck with trusting people. I have trust issues that are punctuated by a violation of trust. I had a boss I spend Christmas with three years in a row fire me in the 4th year. I’ve had people I begged for help turn a deaf ear on my cries. I’ve had people tell me they love me on Monday and by Wednesday they didn’t and were annoyed by my presence. I have betrayals I’ll never get answers to because the people have died.
“Holding grudges is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
It can be so hard to let go of things that hurt you. It can he hard to listen to people who hurt you. It challenges everything we know to forgive someone who isn’t forgiveable.
I ask you to start with this – just say it out loud. “Jennifer, I forgive you.” Warning, it’s going to take like crap the first time you say it and your body will physically reject the notion. Keep saying it. It will become true.
Forgiveness is for you, not them. Forgiveness doesn’t right the wrong. Forgiveness makes you a better person to move on. I have forgiven my emotional, professional, and intimate attackers. I still wouldn’t ever contact them again and I might pause if I saw them stranded on the side of the road, but I forgive them.
Just say the words. Over and over. In your car. In the shower. Before bedtime. Eventually, your body and mind will catch up with your words.
Speak up with words that matter and effect change
I’ve long “had a mouth on me” but developed a bad habit of rarely saying the right words. I’m a Golden Girls 80’s kid who speaks sarcasm fluently. I have excellent points to make. I am smart. I see the forest through the trees. I can troubleshoot any challenge.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I sat in meetings and had an idea that was brushed off yet two weeks later someone else had a similar idea and it was lauded. If I had a dollar for every time I told a boss “Do this” or “Don’t do that” and they ignored me only to have to say what became my favorite words:
“Jennifer, you were right.”
So for years in a management role I wondered “Why am I not being heard?” Job after job I felt like all my good points were ignored. At one point I accepted something is wrong with ME that my voice isn’t being heard. What better words could I choose? What timing could be better? Do people produce a chemical in their brain that blocks out the sound of my voice?
Use words based in fact and not feelings. Practice what you are going to say before you say it. I’ve fired my dogs 10 times and I’ve discussed personnel issues with my stove. Hearing the words at least once helps you perfect the words you will say and root out any improper words. Don’t send an email angry. Don’t send ambiguous texts. Use grownup, well thought out words to say what you want to communicate.
I got too lost in being “right” than I did in being “heard”.
We’ve got a lifetime to get it right, but we’ve only got a lifetime to get it right. Start today and now with being a better version of yourself by listening, accepting other viewpoints, being gracious, forgiving, and choosing the right words.