Friends, meeting differences with neutrality, meaning with non-reaction and non-judgment, is very challenging. Even while observing some birds fighting outside my window, I noticed my mind chatter beginning to make up stories and assumptions about what I was looking at from my human perspective. Look at those angry birds fighting with each other, I thought. I bet the smaller one is trying to defend its territory. Wait, is that a female? The aggression is probably part of their mating ritual. And so on.🤔
I know very little about birds but that didn’t keep my mind from guessing. That’s what human beings do. LOL
Most people I know, myself included, have done the same “projection” thing with people. We observe, compare, judge ourselves as superior or inferior and then react according to the judgment. Some of the stories we imagine create connection and others, division.
For example, a woman walks into a coffee shop dressed to the nines and the judgments or stories begin; “She’s got her stuff together. She obviously makes a lot of money. She seems uptight. She needs to let down her hair and relax a bit. She’s prettier or uglier than me, etc. That’s a whole lot of thoughts without a word being spoken.
Thinking you know
There is something else that we do. Have you ever heard the saying, ”what you look for, you find?” Falling into the trap of thinking we know something or someone based on what we’ve experienced before can limit our success. For example; If I believe, “I have to do everything myself or it won’t get done”, guess what I will continue to expect and experience around me. Limitations!
The reason it’s important to become aware of this is because the stories we tell ourselves and believe, can effect us negatively or positively.
With a neutral mindset, every moment is ripe for new creations unless I let my mind wander into judgments or drag me back to the past. I prefer meeting people, places and things with the presence and curiosity that neutrality provides.
It’s a tool that has helped me quiet my mind so that I can meet who or what is in front of me without my stuff getting in the way. The more neutral and present I become, the more exciting and fulfilling my life turns out to be and my clients have reported the same. Neutrality deepens relationships, reduces stress and increases the ability to be innovative and creative.
If you haven’t tried practicing neutrality before, you can start today. I suggest starting with observing your surroundings as if you were a reporter. Just note the facts. Example; The street is narrow. She’s wearing a red hat. He is driving over the 55 mph speed limit. Then, notice when your mind switches from reporting the facts to your interpretation of the facts; Example; They should widen this street. She wears that hat to get attention. He is a terrible driver.
You can make a list of “Facts” and “Interpretations” if you like. At times it can be helpful to see your thoughts on paper but it’s not necessary. The more you do this exercise the more aware you will become of how the mind can paint it’s own “reality” that may or may not be true.
Pro Tip: Facts don’t usually illicit emotional reactions. Interpretations do. Facts are easily resolved. Interpretations are not. 😉
Fact versus interpretation
See if you can distinguish fact from interpretation in the following scenario;
I woke up this morning and there were dirty dishes on the counter and food left on the stovetop. The kitchen was a complete mess! I’ve told them numerous times to clean up after themselves but they never do.
Nobody in this house listens to me or cares about what I say. I work hard everyday to pay for a beautiful home and I will no longer tolerate this disrespect. They are so lazy.
How did you do?
Was it hard to tell the difference?
Fact: Woke up to dirty dishes on the counter and food left out
Interpretation: The kitchen was a complete mess (this is an opinion as what is “a mess” for one will not be for another)
Fact: I’ve told them numerous times to clean up after themselves.
Interpretation: They never do (Never is an absolute like “always” and neither are typically accurate)
Fact: I feel like they don’t listen or care about what I want. (the feeling is a fact but doesn’t mean the story is true)
Interpretation: The behavior is disrespectful and lazy. (one doesn’t automatically equal the other)
One more little side note; I’ve found it easier to begin practicing neutrality when you are alone. For example, when you’re drinking your morning coffee, what do you see around you? How does the coffee taste? What are your thoughts about the outfit you will wear today? What’s on your “To Do” list?
When you get the hang of separating fact from interpretation you can start practicing neutrality with the people you love. Notice when you fall into the habit of thinking you know vs when you are open and curious. After you’ve gotten some practice and the timing is right (you’ll know when) you can use neutrality in more challenging situations, like with the colleague that rubs you in the wrong way or your mother in law 😂.
Seeing facts as just facts, without the emotional charge that interpretations can bring grants the opportunity for new perspectives. Sometimes a fresh look at the business, the relationship, or the problem is all that stands between us and the success we long for.
The more you practice the more you’ll notice life begin to transform in amazing ways.
Let’s practice together!
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