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Do we really believe in the Golden Rule?

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

How often do we mirror someone else's bad behavior or worse?

I want to point out a trap that is easy to fall into. It’s the trap of mirroring unliked behavior. A couple of weeks ago at my daughter’s volleyball game I overheard a woman behind me tell the person next to her that it’s “so rude” to talk while someone is serving. This person was also criticizing the coach and vocally upset with some of the girls’ performance.

Yesterday my daughter had another volleyball game and what happened was interesting and not uncommon. When a member of our team would throw the ball up to serve, a girl on the other team would yell “ball up” right before she hit the ball. There was a little bit of chatter in the stands on our side because several other parents also believed that you should be quiet when someone is serving. Over and over the same thing would happen. A yell “ball up” during each serve. Then a man in the stands got up and went behind the referee to call his attention to the action. The referee ignored him. Probably because there is no rule about being quiet while serving. Well, the man didn’t stop when he didn’t get a response from the referee. He began to yell back at this middle school girl the words “ball down, ball down” and said some other things that I can’t remember. The point is that he strongly disliked the action of the girl on the other team and decided to do something completely out of character in efforts to change her behavior.

We all have heard the Golden Rule, “treat others how you want to be treated”. That teaching is taught in most cultures and religions, but do we really believe it? Do we really want to treat others how we want them to treat us? How many of us raise our voices when someone is shouting at us? How many times do we hear one driver honk followed by a response honk and an added hand gesture from another driver. It’s as if we are trying to teach people to act in a “better way” by doing the exact thing that we don’t like them to do. Is it because we want to show them how obnoxious it is? Or how much it hurts? It’s funny because usually it has the opposite effect. Sometimes it turns into what looks like two individuals competing to one up each other’s crazy.

Another example of this occurred when I was in middle school. A boy who was sitting a couple of seats in front of me was slowly clicking his pen over and over again during a video presentation. My thought: “that is so distracting and annoying”. I blamed him for my anger. So, I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I got my pen and started ferociously clicking. I clicked as loud and as fast as I possibly could to get this guy's attention in hopes that he would stop clicking his own pen. We all know how that story ends. Did the guy clicking his pen even notice? No. Not only did he not notice, but I quickly heard a shout from my teacher, not directed at him, but at me. “SOMMER!” I quickly put down my pen. In hopes of resolving my annoyance, I annoyed the entire class. Not only that, but for the rest of the class I had to sit silently as the boy two seats in front of me continued to slowly click his pen over and over again. What did I learn from this experience? Probably nothing at the time, but through my life coach training and my time as a parent I have learned that it isn’t about focusing on trying to teach the other person a lesson or trying to control their behavior. It is about deciding who you want to be in those moments. What do you want your actions to be? How do you want to show up in the world? You can’t choose how other people act or react. You can only choose your own actions.

So how do we choose the actions we want even when we feel like a person or circumstance makes us so mad, frustrated, or annoyed? It all comes back to our thoughts. We have to recognize that in each circumstance the reason we are feeling the way we do isn’t because of the circumstance itself. It comes from our thoughts about it. Our ability to control our thoughts is directly correlated to our ability to control our actions. As we learn to manage our thoughts we can manage our emotions and thus change our actions. This is possible with some awareness and practice. If you are interested in learning how, contact me for a free exploration call. It'll change your world.

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