For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a happy person. Like, really happy. Not all the time. Not every day. But overall, I just prefer to be happy over being sad. One of my top five StrengthsFinder strengths is positivity, so I love trying to find the silver lining in the clouds and seeing how good can come out of negative situations.
There are four things I do that help me stay happy, and I thought, why not share them and see if they benefit anyone else?
Like all of you who are reading this, I’ve experienced some major heartache in my life. And some of the greatest heartache happens when others hurt us. Or when misunderstandings happen in our relationships with others.
Any of these things ever happened to you?
- You planned a coffee date with a friend…and got stood up.
- The people most important to you were silent on the day of your birthday.
- You did an amazing job on a big project at work…and your boss didn’t say a word.
- You got unfollowed on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.
- You posted on social media about a huge thing that happened to you…and hardly anyone acknowledged it.
- You missed church for a few Sundays…or book club…or your mom’s group…and no one seemed to even notice.
- You texted or emailed someone important to you…and never received a response.
Let’s be real. These things all sound small, but they can feel very, very big and the hurt can go very, very deep.
Sure, one of the best ways by far is just to ask that person what happened. Being honest about your feelings and giving them the opportunity to let you know what happened is really your best option. If you can muscle up and do it, go for it!
That said, here’s me being really honest with you: I’m usually too big of a wuss to do that. I get all shy, and sometimes I don’t want to know the real answer, because what if it’s actually really hurtful and they were intending to be mean? There are times where I do need to know what happened, and then I gear myself up and force myself to ask. And 9 times out of 10, it was an accident, and I’m really glad I got up the courage to kindly confront. If you can ask, by all means, DO IT!
But if you can’t, I’ve got a Plan B. I have four ways I choose to think that get me happy again almost every time.
First, I have a motto in life: Everyone likes me. I know it’s not true, but I don’t care. It’s much easier to go through life assuming people like you. You have more confidence and it’s easier to believe the best about them when they screw up.
I’ll give you an example: I walk into a birthday party at a friend’s house. I see a person I know who is usually very friendly. She seems to be avoiding me. I wait for a while then go up and say hi. She gives me a lame hug, no eye contact, then turns back to the people she was talking to.
First feeling? A sting of rejection. First thought? What happened? Why is she acting that way?
But then I remember! Everybody likes me! So, no worries.
I don’t stop there. The next thing I do is make excuses for people. Maybe she’s not feeling well. Maybe she really wants to catch up with the people she was talking to. Maybe she had a hard day and is feeling distracted. Maybe she’s just not in the mood to talk a lot tonight and just wants to stick to people she knows really well. Maybe she’s an introvert. Maybe she got dragged to this party and doesn’t really want to be here.
I don’t even bother to analyze whether my excuses are good ones or not. I just make them up. And then I feel better!
The third thing I do is imagine myself in that person’s shoes, otherwise known as empathy. What if I had a hard day? I bet I wouldn’t want to talk to a lot of people either. I bet next time I see her, we’ll have a great conversation!
Voila! Ok, but truth be told, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes I really feel tempted to get hurt. But then I think, getting hurt stinks! When I get offended or my feelings are hurt, I lose my confidence and feel all shy and want to be alone and feel sad. If I can just believe the best, I’ll have a great night! And odds are, she didn’t even mean to ignore me and would feel terrible if she knew how rudely she just came across.
The last thing I do is think of all the ways I’ve messed up in my relationships with others. I am a massive daydreamer. I have offended SO many people by walking right past them without even acknowledging them. I can look straight through someone without seeing them. It’s terrible. (Those who know me well can attest to my horrible tunnel vision.)
A few people have had the guts to admit to me that I offended them in this way. Because they were brave enough to speak up, I was able to apologize and tell them how lost in thought or super focused I sometimes get.. We smiled, we laughed, we hugged, and all is well. Yay for those people! But for all the rest, I hope they are choosing to believe the best about me!
So when others do seemingly offensive things, I think, Hey, Steph, you sure aren’t perfect! Think of all the times you’ve offended people on accident! Assume that they just made a mistake too.
Got unfollowed on Facebook or Instagram? Maybe they clicked the unfollow button on accident! (Done that.) Or maybe they are just making their list way smaller so they can focus more on their family.
No phone calls on your birthday? Maybe they just plain forgot or were relying on their calendar to remind them, but they weren’t online today. (Done that!)
Someone not respond to your text? Maybe their phone is broken! (My phone has broken for weeks at a time at least three times within the past year and I REALLY hope people are believing the best as they send me messages I’m not receiving.)
So, that’s my big secret. Decide everyone likes you, then act like everyone likes you! And when you get hurt, either speak up or decide to forgive by believing the best. How can you believe the best? Give people the benefit of the doubt. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember how imperfect you are and be grateful for the grace that others have extended to you when you needed it.
I suppose you can also choose to get offended, get angry, get revenge, or get sad, but that just takes too much work! I have so many other things I’d rather do with my time. You can’t do it always, but when you can, choose happiness instead of heartache. Life is a lot more fun that way :)
[Love] bears up under everything; believes the best in all; there is no limit to her hope, and never will she fall.- I Corinthians 13:7 (ISV)