We've all been there...
You see your maddeningly annoying colleague walking towards you at work and inwardly you cringe and groan, while outside you try to offer up a pleasant (albeit insincere) greeting.
After they have passed, you replay the latest most ridiculous thing they have done, and then proceed to think of how they could have handled the situation differently.
You converse with your coworkers and compare notes about how frustrating this person is, and why can't they just be more like this (or less like that)? Or ponder the ever-popular "Who DOES that?!" in response to their inexplicable actions.
That was certainly my experience with a colleague at one of my classroom jobs before I traded teaching math for starting my own business as a mentor and mindfulness instructor.
Essentially, she was jealous of my success, and attempted to bring me down with attacks on my character. Meanwhile, I could not stand the condescending, demeaning way she treated the staff, or our students. I spent more time than I'd like to admit stewing over her actions, criticizing her with my other colleagues, and feeling frustrated and aggravated because of it.
Everyone is doing their best (...everyone?)
It had been over a year of this nonsense when one of my best friends took me to a workshop that featured the teachings of Louise Hay, a positive affirmations guru.
One of the groundbreaking affirmations that stood out for me was "Everyone is doing their best.” When I first heard it, I laughed out loud. I explained how I had an immediate list of reasons why I could say with certainty that my coworker was definitely NOT doing her best (since I also could describe the myriad of ways she could be doing things better).
The instructor reminded me we never know everyone's full story. We never know how they were raised, the current circumstances in their personal lives, or their inner beliefs about themselves—yet all of these aspects greatly impact people's demeanor and actions.
And choosing to judge others when we don't (and can't) ever know the full picture disempowers us. In every moment, we have the choice to be kind to ourselves and others, or waste our time criticizing people.
I decided to just TRY saying the positive affirmation "everyone is doing their best" in my mind when I saw my annoying coworker—instead of the inward groaning and judging I would do when I was around her.
From enemies to apologies
The next day, I practiced: I chose to stop the (what I thought was) hidden disgust inwardly when I saw her, and instead reminded myself "everyone is doing their best" when we encountered each other. Would you believe me if I told you that from that moment on, I did not have another problem with how she treated me? Because that is exactly what happened.
It felt like we went from enemies to cordial colleagues overnight. Did I agree with everything she did from that moment on? Nope! Did she still annoy my coworkers? Definitely. But the difference was, I did not waste my time judging her for it. I let go of the part of my ego that was insisting I knew better than she did.
And at the end of that school year, it happened; she apologized for her behavior towards me for the first year and a half of our time together. I was shocked and grateful that a simple affirmation could impact my relationship and reality to this major extent.
How mindfulness meditation helps
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment with a calm mind. Regardless of what is going on around you, it is the choice to come back to the here and now with compassion and acceptance for yourself and what is.
*Side note: Having compassion and acceptance does not mean allowing abusive situations and people to remain in your life. Mindful awareness can, however, help you to practice increasing your self-esteem and self-worth so you can be clear on what you do and do not want to allow in your life.
Mindfulness is not something that can be perfected, since it is an ever-available choice we can make (or bypass when we are on auto-pilot—which happens to everyone, since we are all human).
Mediation can also look many different ways—from seated cross-legged for an hour after a yoga session, to simply pausing to take a deep breath before drinking your morning tea. Just like mindfulness, it is a practice that can be incorporated to benefit all areas of life.
A meditation to deal with annoying coworkers
You cannot control the actions of your colleagues (or anyone besides yourself, really), but you can control what you choose to think about... and how deeply you inhale and exhale.
Mindfulness is not a reason to berate yourself more (when you inevitably catch yourself thinking disempowering things—such as judging yourself or others). Rather, it is an invitation to start fresh whenever, wherever. This can be done in your mind whenever you want or need it - when you are brushing your teeth, commuting to work, at a meeting with said frustrating coworker, etc.
1. NOTICE: Begin by noticing your breathing, and your feelings. (Right now I feel _____, and I am safe)
2. BREATHE: Invite yourself to take a slower inhale and a longer exhale. Repeat as desired. You can even try a counting breath—inhaling 1, 2, 3, 4, exhaling 4, 3, 2, 1, or a clearing breath—imagining each exhale releases what you don't need, and each inhale brings in new, fresh, positive energy)
3. EMPOWER: Remember the point of power is in the present moment. Do you want to use this moment of your life to choose to give other people power over you or do you want to empower yourself and reclaim your time and mental space? Often, when we are judging others, it is because there is something within ourselves we are also subconsciously judging. Rather than continue the cycle, we can stop and choose our course of action by beginning with our thoughts.
4. AFFIRM: Replace thought patterns of judgment and criticism with positive affirmations, such as "I know I am doing my best, I allow myself to be at rest" and "Everyone is doing their best, I allow my mind to be at rest." I have found affirmation jingles—positive thoughts that rhyme—to be especially helpful since they can more easily get stuck in your head on a loop.
The steps can be done anywhere, anytime—silently and swiftly! All you need is your presence and willingness to receive a new reality.
JoAnna is a mentor and mindfulness/yoga instructor. She believes that practicing Self-TLC (self-trust, self-love, and self-care) is the key to receiving all you desire, so that is what she has created her career around. She enjoys working one-on-one with clients to help them feel heard, honored, helped and at home in their lives using simple, effective, personalized mindfulness techniques. JoAnna also teaches mindfulness and yoga to students and teachers (in person and via an online mindfulness series). In her spare time, she loves traveling with her soulmate, reading, learning about astrology, and enjoying quality time with her beloveds. For more mindfulness and self-TLC techniques, and to connect with JoAnna, please visit www.transformationthroughlove.com.