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 dis-empowers 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…
**JoAnna Nangle originally wrote this blog for Women in Leadership Nexus as a guest post. To read the rest of the original post, including what happened with her coworker and a mindfulness meditation that can help you today, click here.**