For most of us in New England, summer means more time outdoors, vacations with loved ones, and spending time with friends and family, perhaps at a pool, beach, cookouts, fairs and festivals, or outdoor concerts: there are so many choices.
But, as you probably already know, all this togetherness can lead to conflicts. So in this column, I’ll explore how to bring harmony to challenging relationships.
On her website Judaism 101, Tracey Rich talks about love and brotherhood in the commandments for kindness.
She writes, “Jewish law includes within it a blueprint for a just and ethical society, where no one takes from another or harms another or takes advantage of another, but everyone gives to one another and helps one another and protects one another. Again, these are not merely high ideals; the means for fulfilling these ideals are spelled out in the 613 commandments. …
“Entire books have been written on the subject of Jewish laws against wronging another person in speech. We are commanded not to tell lies about a person, nor even uncomplimentary things that are true. We are commanded to speak the truth, to fulfill our promises, and not to deceive others.”
Through my work and experiences, I’ve developed five ways to deal with challenging people using these concepts in Jewish law:
• Understand the behavior: It is not easy to be kind and understanding when people close to you hurt, annoy or anger you. This is where you can use your objective view and see them from a distance, through an unemotional lens. This will help to depersonalize the behavior, even though it affects you.
• State your truth: In a kind way, say how these behaviors and words affect you. Use “I” statements instead of blaming the person. Let them know how you feel, but not in anger – do this for you to stay in your truth.
• Accept that the behavior may not change: This is a tough one, but when you accept the behavior, you avoid being triggered and taking it personally. However, this does not apply to abusive behavior. In those cases, you may need to get professional help.
• Change your perception, attitude or situation: When the behavior is not abusive or destructive, change how you view it. Become an observer. Ask yourself, is this affecting me long-term? Is this annoying to me but not hurtful? Can I learn to accept that this behavior is the way that this person copes with anger and fear? Can I accept that this is part of their personality? And, lastly, can I change my view so that I can be with this person without triggering them or being triggered?
Also ask yourself what you can learn from them to help you deal with other, similar situations.
• See the person in the best light: Remember times when this person has been at their best and try to create those types of situations when you are with them. That means avoiding statements and actions that you know will trigger the behavior you want to avoid.
These steps have helped me tremendously in dealing with difficult moments with the special people in my life, and have allowed me to appreciate their good side.
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She has served on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.