One of the most important lessons of the Happiness Project – and something that’s very hard for me to put into practice – is that I need to acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings. This is true for adults, children, employees, students, random strangers on the street.
It sounds very touchy-feely, but it’s a fact about human nature that’s true in even the most hardboiled contexts. And it sounds easy to do, but I, for one, find it tough.
Once I started paying attention, I realized how often I automatically dismiss other people’s feelings. “You always have fun when we go.” “You should be thrilled, this is great news.” “It won’t be that much work.”
For example, in hindsight, I realize how I could have done a better job this weekend with the Big Girl. We went out shoe-shopping for the Little Girl, and the Big Girl said, “If we get something for her, we have to get something for me.”
“No,” I said, “today is just for her.”
“But that’s no fair! And it’s boring to shop for her when I’m not getting anything!”
Instead of acknowledging what she was saying, I made logical arguments, the highlight of which was a lengthy and tiresome discussion of the concept of “fairness,” and we bickered for several blocks.
Instead, I should have said, “You get bored shopping for your sister. You wish we were shopping for something for you,” and left it at that. Why deny her feelings? It is boring to shop for shoes for a two-year-old.
I’ve found, too, that when other people deny or ignore my feelings, I tend to keep repeating myself (i.e., whining), because I don’t feel heard.
So, for example, the Big Man doesn’t want to talk about my annoying encounter with the cable guy, and I don’t even particularly feel like talking about it, but until I get my “Wow, that must have been so annoying,” I can’t let it go.
The Happiness Project is all about the problems of “ordinary happiness.” But I just discovered a brand-new blog, Finding Your Marbles, that’s aimed at people battling anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc. If you’re looking for information that deals with these kinds of topics, it’s going to be a good resource.