“Should”ing On The World

In the final installment of my series on “should”ing, we’re going to broaden our focus to the world around us.

I’m pretty sure no one ever solved one of the world’s problems in the comments section on social media or during a heated discussion at a family dinner.  Yet even though we know this, it can be difficult at times to stop ourselves from engaging in online or in person disagreements.  We find ourselves caught, so trapped in our correctness that we must respond.  We must stand up for what is right! 

But what if we’re wrong?

I most recently found myself on right side of an issue when it came to getting a Covid vaccine.  I’m a doctor.  I trust science.  I saw vaccines as the way we were going to finally be able to move on from the pandemic and get back to our lives.  I was evangelical in my support for getting out there and getting vaccinated.  It never even occurred to me that there would be people who felt differently.

Then there they were.  I encountered people online, at work, and in my circle of friends who didn’t agree with my feelings about vaccination.  In fact, in certain circumstances they felt just as passionately that vaccination wasn’t the answer.

I spent weeks “should”ing all over those folks.  They should know better.  They should trust science.  They should care about the people around them.  I should pull their heads out of their asses and get with the program.  You get the idea.

I was angry.  I was self-righteous.  I was ready for a fight and fight I did.  I was determined to change people’s minds.  I had my argument.  It was rock solid.  It was airtight.  It was demonstrative at best and insulting at worst.

I had convinced myself so fervently that I was right, and that everyone else should agree with me that I completely forgot the #1 rule when interacting with other adults. 

Other adult humans get to think, feel, believe, and act in any way they see fit.

I have no control over the minds of others, and when I try to exert control, I typically end up making an ass out of myself.  I vomit my beliefs down their throats like a mother bird feeding her chick.  The only problem is they’re not my chicks to feed, and the more they disagree, the more they fight back against my intrusion on their beliefs.  We both only dig our feet in deeper. 

No minds get changed, and in the end my constant fighting and disapproving only serves to make my life miserable for me.  I live at odds with those around me, and the division between us only grows.

I could feel this happening.  I could feel the tension and distrust building between me and the unvaccinated people in my life, and I didn’t like it.  I really do prefer to live in harmony with those around me.

Fortunately, coaching has given me tools to deal with moments like this.  The first thing I do is I sit down and ask myself, “What if I’m wrong?”  In the case of Covid vaccinations I was wrong.  I believed that everyone should get vaccinated, but clearly that wasn’t what was happening around me.  I was just arguing with reality.  I was “should”ing all over the unvaccinated people in my life rather than trying to step back and understand.

The next thing I do after I accept that I could be wrong about a belief is I ask myself what if I believed the opposite?  I had a hard time doing this on my own with Covid vaccinations, so I just started listening.  I don’t have to agree with the other person’s reasoning, I just have to honor it as true for them.  Once I started to really listen, I realized that the unvaccinated people in my life felt just as passionately about the decision they had made as I did about mine.

I can have compassion for people who live by their beliefs even when they differ from my own.  Once I found that compassion, I found that my conversations with my unvaccinated patients completely changed.  I was open and understanding and, as a result, my patients became more open and understanding of my view as well.  For the first time, I changed minds.  I didn’t do it by force.  I did it by acceptance.

One issue that I hear from my clients when we delve into this kind of work is the idea that embracing another person’s disparate belief is the same as embracing that belief for yourself, but I promise you, it’s not.  I can believe that getting vaccinated for Covid is the best thing to do and I can have compassion and understanding for those who believe that it’s not.

I would love to help you learn how to do this through coaching.  I invite you to sign up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  I’d also love to talk to you about a free coaching opportunity.  If you’re interested, email me at hello@unicorndoctor.com to learn more.