From the negative co-worker to the silent spouse, you can do more than you may think to change them!
"Is it really that hard to put the seat down?" "It doesn't take that long to pick out a pair of shoes!" "He never stops complaining!"
Other people's behavior can be infuriating and frustrating. What if there was a way you could change them? Okay, not necessarily change them, but change your experience of them ... which is just as good as changing them because it's your experience of them that you are ... well, experiencing!
If there is someone in your life you wish was different in some way, you can use the power of compassion to actually change your experience of them. This may seem far-fetched and "out there" at first, but bear with me. Although you can't force others to change, you CAN change your experience of them. Your experience of other people, along with your experience of the rest of life, is determined by the state you are in—how you feel.
If you think about it, when you are feeling happy or you're in love, the people around you seem to be less annoying, don't they? When you are feeling angry, hurt, frustrated or irritable, even the most harmless of souls can annoy you, right? The interesting thing is that when you change how you feel, independent of others, you will notice that either the people who annoy you change as well (this will depend on the individual and the specific circumstances) or you will happen to not be around when that person is in the state that bothers you.
So, how do you change your state? Especially if you are already feeling annoyed or frustrated? Well, there is a very simple exercise that can get you into a state of compassion regardless of what is going on around you, and regardless of how you are currently feeling. The reason it is so effective is that it's a physiological state rather than an emotional or mental one. This means it doesn't matter what you are thinking or feeling, you can get your brain to release the "feel good" chemicals that will change your state, on demand!
Before I share the exercise with you, it is important to realize and remember that this is a skill and it takes practice to develop it. Think of it like learning to ride a bike—it will take time to gain your balance; and the more you do it, the easier it will get. The more you practice this exercise, the easier it will get and the more powerful the results will be. You will eventually develop your skill to the point where you will be able to "tune in" to the power of compassion and unconditional love right in the middle of an argument or painful situation, without the need to go through the exercise!
Exercise for Changing Your State
1. Close your eyes (but only after you've finished reading the instructions of course ;) ), take a couple of deep breaths and relax as you exhale.
2. Think of someone you already feel compassion for—this could be a person or a pet. Most people find it easier to use an animal for this exercise as there is usually less "baggage".
3. Imagine holding that person or animal in your arms in a hug, and take note of the physical feeling in your chest as you do so.
4. Now imagine that feeling as a ball of light or energy, and imagine it spreading down to your toes and up to the top of your head, so that you are now full of that feeling - that light or energy.
5. Finally, imagine that feeling over-flowing from you and filling the room you're in.
You have just changed your state. You brain has released "feel good" chemicals including Oxytocin—which is healthy for a wide variety of reasons! When you first try this exercise you may only be able to hold this state for a few seconds; but the more you practice it, the longer you'll be able to hold it and the stronger it will become.
Start by practicing this before you encounter the person that bothers you—get yourself into that state before you see or speak with them. You might not be able to keep it going for long; but as you practice it more, you will find you are able to "tune in" to that feeling instantly without needing to use the exercise. When you reach that stage you will be able to switch to that state in the middle of any negative encounter.
This is the first step to changing your experience of other people. To move on to the next step you can take it further by using the Superpower Exercise and aiming it at the people you want to change.