What is your internal response when someone gives you a compliment? We all have pat answers to make sure we don’t get caught in awkward situations with nothing to say, but what is really going on inside? Isn’t there a pull to diminish the compliment and squelch the vulnerability that comes with it?
What is your internal response when someone gives you constructive criticism in an area that is particularly precious to you? I know for myself, I often feel anger or maybe shame. I internally resist the comment even if my outward response towards the person gives them the idea that I will take it under advisement, and am thankful for the advice.
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When you encounter someone who is different than you, how do you respond? This person may have different beliefs, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, financial position or hold different values than you. They may dress different, speak differently or have different experiences than you. If we are honest, isn’t there something inside of us that squirms and even tries to wriggle away? It may not be outright hate, but it certainly isn’t an unabashed embrace of what is different.
Each of these scenarios show a natural disposition of an internal “no”. This protects us from the unknown and the uncomfortable. It also keeps us stuck in the rut of the known. “No” builds walls and “yes” builds bridges. While some walls are healthy, I want to be building more bridges than walls.
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I grew up in a home that taught me that anything that is different is unsafe. Learning openness has been a long journey for me. I am so much more grounded, less defensive and better at loving others than I ever was before. This is because I have been practicing allowing people and situations to impact me more than I would have in the past. I am learning to say “yes” first.
When we say “yes” first, it does not mean our answer will be yes, it just means we remain open instead of closed off. Instead of immediately dismissing things that are uncomfortable, we try to remain present to them. We look for what goodness is here and what we can learn from it. The 2008 movie Yes, Man starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel tells an exaggerated and humorous story that describes this perspective.
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Saying “yes” is me fully showing up and being present. If I am going to say “no” it will be because I fully engaged and found that this boundary is a healthy choice in this situation. I do not want to be found on the sidelines more worried about staying protected than living full and free. I want to risk discomfort on the way to courage. If we hide behind our walls no one gets our full presence and we don’t get theirs.
So let’s live with a posture of “yes” first. We can learn to take a compliment and really receive it. We can learn to humbly take constructive criticism and really learn from it. We can learn to find the beauty in the connection with those who are different than us. We can learn to live open instead of closed off.