A bunch of us were talking about our holiday plans for the year-end. The person sitting on my left was telling me about how he and his wife had gone to Brussels and spoke to this young girl who was traveling Europe with just a backpack. And I responded with, “I didn’t like Brussels, as it was frigid and all that seemed worth seeing there was the Manneken Pis.”
Now, was there genuinely a need for me to respond? Did he ask me about my experience in Brussels? There are a lot of such situations where I respond unnecessarily. How many times in conversations with friends and family I have ignored what they are saying and just butted in with what I think is more important. Most of the time I am talking to myself even in a conversation. The intent with which I have a conversation is one to reply not to understand.
Why do I respond when there is no need? There are many reasons. Primarily, I believe it is my need to show that I know more – a little bit of ego. Since I live in Columbus, I think I need to prove that I don’t belong to Columbus. Secondly, it is just lack of listening. I am not hearing, genuinely listening to what the other person is saying. Lastly, its because I am not intentional in my discussions. I am not sure myself on what the purpose of the conversation is and what my role is? Are they looking to pass the time, seeking advice, share good news or just need somebody to listen.
What are the few ways I can change this attitude?
1. Set the intention: If I even thought for a few seconds in any conversation about what my role is in the conversation it will be a lot better. If I am overtly aware that the other person is just filling their time, then I can focus my energies elsewhere. Or, If I determine that my purpose in this conversation is to set direction then I can respond accordingly.
2. Be Selfish: Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you just repeat what you know. If you listen then you might actually learn something new.” Next time take the learning approach to the conversations.
3. Take small steps: If I decide to do the above in all my conversations, I will be exhausted. I might end up doing more harm with no progress. The next baby step is to start with one or two conversations a day and then build on that.
Silence is also an acceptable response and most of the times a better one.
Story 1: For almost a year in a row I had two apples for breakfast every day. I would wake up in the morning, use my apple corer, fill up a plastic cup and eat them during the car ride to the office. It was convenient, healthy and kept the doctor away. I don’t really care for apples though.
Story 2: I usually wear dresses to the office, personal choice. I like wearing dresses because they are more feminine. The day I turned up wearing jeans on Friday I got a lot of surprised looks and comments. During winter or around fall I wore jeans to the office during most Fridays. One of my colleagues pointed it out and said, “I thought you didn’t like wearing jeans.”
Story 3: I was introduced to Bikram Yoga by a friend in London. And I loved it so much that we rented a flat next to the studio. I went to the studio almost every day for two years. Then I stopped doing yoga altogether for six months and haven’t practiced Bikram Yoga since then.
This post is about likes and dislikes. I may like or dislike something but that doesn’t mean I am bound by some law to do what I like and not do what I dislike. For me, practicality and convenience overcome likes and dislikes. Eating an apple for breakfast made my life easy.
I was feeling cold in office and jeans kept me warm. It doesn’t matter whether I like jeans or not – for me being warm was more important than wearing cotton pants which by the way I do like.
My likes and dislikes change. I have no control over them like in the case of Bikram Yoga, hence I do not see the value in tying myself to my own likes and dislikes which change and are fleeting. Never say never.
We all have our pet peeves and the way we like things. We might like our eggs to be a certain way, we might like our co-workers to be a certain way or not be a certain way. The way we like our parents to behave, our partners to react, our pets to act… The list is endless.
That said I am also guilty of having an attachment to the things I like – I love having Indian tea with milk even though I am trying to go Vegan. I dislike drinking. We all have a strong attachment to things we like and aversion to the things we dislike. There is nothing wrong with liking or disliking something – we don’t have a choice. Our subconscious has already judged something but we do have control over our attachment or aversion to something.
Another thing is to note is that our likes and dislikes really don’t matter. We may not like rain but if it is raining we have three choices a) be upset about it (if you dislike rain) b) be happy about it (if you like rain) c) don’t care because it doesn’t matter to you. None of these three choices change the fact that it is raining. 99% of the time life is that way – the reality as it is doesn’t change and we have the freedom to choose our response to it.