What a privilege it is to be able to talk to you about Thinking Opposite! But wait… what IS Thinking Opposite? That is a really good question. Thinking Opposite is just that… thinking the opposite of what you presently think.
Suspend your belief. Consider the opposite. Proceed with perspective.
Now, why would you want to do that? For many reasons:
- Maybe your opinion is wrong.
- It’s easier to talk with someone else if we try to understand their perspective.
- We want other people to take the time to understand us too.
- The world has become very polarized and we are forgetting how to talk to people who disagree with us.
- We get buried in our “tribes” and begin to think we are more right than we are.
- There is SO much to learn that we can’t possibly know all aspects of a perspective or belief
- And the list can go on…
When we take the time to stop and think about what we think, about what other people think, and about why they may be doing things the way they are doing them, we can gain so much clarity and freedom. Take this example that you can try today.
Let’s say you are driving to work and you didn’t sleep well and you are a bit cranky. Yes, this could happen! And a car pulls up behind you and won’t stop tailgating you. Your first instinct is to get mad, or slow down, or yell obscenities. After all, does he really have to drive so close? Even if he gets ahead of you, he can only get as far as the car in front of you.
You have two choices. You can follow your first instinct. Get mad. Go to work and tell everyone who will listen what a jerk you had following you into work. The upside is you get a great story to tell everyone, but the downside is you are reliving that angst all day. This guy behind you becomes, for however long, the focus of your energy. And there is a pretty good chance that the guy will get to his work and have a great story about the car in front of him who was driving so slow!
OR, you can suspend your belief that this driver is a jerk, consider the opposite (that he is a nice guy), and gain some perspective. Perhaps he just got a call that his wife went into early labour and is in the Hospital, and that he is rushing to hold his wife’s hand while she is going through her contractions and to see the birth of his new baby. Are you able to still hold your same level of anger for him, or does your stance soften when you try to see him as a real person with reasons for his action?
I know what you might be thinking – “What are the chances that he is going to be a dad today of all days?”
Well, what are the chances he is not? You see, both “He is a Jerk” and “He is a Great Husband”, are stories you can tell yourself. Your brain and your energy are going to respond to the story you decide to believe. I can almost guarantee that if you chose the story “He is a Great Husband” you will be able to let go of the ill feelings you are harbouring and allow your mind to focus on things that actually matter to you. It’s unlikely you will go into work in a tizzy about his driving and your energy will be available for more positive endeavours.
Do you see how just this simple practise can change the trajectory of your day? If you can start to apply this thinking to something so simple and change the outcome of your day, imagine what you can do when you start applying it to other situations?
What about when you child comes home with a new idea you are not very fond of? Think Opposite. Maybe you can suspend your belief and have an information-seeking conversation with her about this new idea. Maybe it’s not as bad as you thought. Maybe it is, but at least she will feel heard.
What about when a customer comes into your store with a complaint? Yes, you may have a policy, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be applied in the same way for this particular customer.
What about when you are trying to get fit and argue with yourself about getting up at 5AM to go to the gym? Both the “YOU, who is trying to sleep” and the “YOU, who is trying to get fit” have very good reasons for wanting what YOU want. Acknowledging each YOU is important because both are valid. This will allow you to be gentle, to acknowledge the YOU that is trying to keep you warm and stay asleep, and then to get up out of bed and go to the gym!
What about when we believe strongly in something like pro-life or pro-choice? Both sides feel very “right” about their perspective and maybe talking to the other side will stop the polarization and lead to a result everyone can live with. Or maybe not, but the benefits of trying is always worth it. It makes me sad to think of the people who have lost friendships over which political party is going to win. Clearly long-term friendships must be worth more, are they not?
When we suspend our belief and think opposite, it doesn’t mean we are wrong or that we have to change our mind; it just means that the other person matters too. Perhaps we can learn something from their perspective and in turn become more educated about our own.
So until next month’s column try not to hate the guy driving behind you!