Cultivating Tolerance In Your Life
Tolerance is the ability or willingness to be present to, and not reactive of, opinions or behaviors that you dislike or disagree with. How tolerant are we? This is a big question and I guarantee that the answer reflects that it shifts and changes based on the person or situation we face. This is revealing as it can help us identify parts of self that need work on being more tolerant and beliefs that are driving this intolerance.
Waiting for others to change their views so I can be more tolerant is like sitting at home wishing for chocolate cake and expecting the bakery to deliver it.
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The World of Intolerance
There are a few subjects that immediately come to mind where intolerance shows up. Religion and politics probably rank right up there among others. There are also simple behaviors at home, in the workplace and in all our relationships that we face daily, and that we handle poorly, allowing our intolerance to drive our reactive responses.
Reflect on a recent ‘surf’ through Facebook or any other social media and notice where you have read a comment or post and felt a slight reaction. Your heart may have started beating a little faster, your blood boiled, your hair stood up and/or you felt yourself getting emotional. If you look for opportunities to be offended, you won’t be short of finding them. This may have taken the form of comparing yourself to that person, rejection of a comment, dismissing it as absurd or even reacting by writing your own view on the post, either directly or subtly putting the person down. What is clear is that you hold your view right over their view, which to you is wrong. Simply put, we have demonstrated intolerance. We are intolerant of people who are different to us.
What is Driving Our Intolerance?
We are all just a collection of beliefs running around in the world trying to fit-in. We come into this world a blank slate. We are perfectly imperfect and the people in our lives start shaping us. Beliefs are instilled in us that help us make sense of the world. It starts at home.
“We are born geniuses and conditioned to be failures.” – Albert Einstein
An individual born into a religious family will be conditioned to understand, respect and buy into the religious beliefs of the family. These beliefs drive their behaviors and this impacts on their relationships. This may lead them to accept or reject others based on similar or different beliefs. Beliefs are just thoughts we have thought time and time again until they become our truth. This is our truth and not someone else’s truth. Our beliefs are our lens through which we perceive the world and the role of a belief is to search and secure evidence that supports it. Anything that does not support our belief is disregarded as wrong and therefore rejected.
It is true to say that some beliefs are limiting as they prevent us from learning. They limit our exposure to ‘difference’ and reject that which is not the same.
Intolerance in Relationships
Think about that one individual in your life that pushes your buttons and sends you over the edge. What exactly does this individual say or do that has you lose your cool? What does this say about you? What is your belief that is driving your reaction?
It may be hard to face these questions as we have been conditioned to find the cause of our problems outside of ourselves. This is termed blame. We are so good at blaming as it shifts responsibility away from our reaction onto the person who we believe caused our reaction. The impact is that we take an emotional (sometimes irrational) stand for our viewpoint, rejecting whatever anyone else says. People are compelled react the same way and we end up in a relationship full of blame, resistance driven by intolerance.
The human brain contains mirror neurons; special cells that fire at the sight or sound of a relevant or emotionally charged action. We can’t help but react unless we change the template. Remember, you do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. What can I do to grow my tolerance?
Self-awareness is the ability to notice in the moment what is happening for you and how you choose to respond.
We need to spend more time reflecting on situations where we find ourselves being intolerant and unpack them. We need to identify what has triggered (external audit) us and what part of ourselves has been triggered (internal audit). This will highlight what we need to work with. If we want to change, we have to start within and be responsible for our role in situations. I am not saying others behaviors are justifiable. What I am saying is that if we take responsibility for ourselves and work with what we need to change, we empower ourselves to approach situations from a more tolerant internal space.
Challenge Our Beliefs
Our beliefs have been handed down to us and made true by experience after experience. Notice the ones that have us feel limited, generate negative consequences, and question them. What makes them true? What do they serve and what do they limit? When we fully understand a belief we can change it. This process may just open us up to realizing that others beliefs are true for them and not us. The next step in the process is to ask yourself what a more empowering belief would be. Embedding this new belief through repetition and seeking evidence to support it, will change your template. This changes your behavior in situations where tolerance is required.
Limiting beliefs shut us down and prevent us from hearing other’s views. We need to cultivate the ability to listen and ask questions. This allows us to hear others views whilst holding our own. When we are driven by our belief that says we are right, our ears shut and our mouths open. We aim to prove others wrong and we listen to answer. When we approach situations with curiosity we hold our belief true for us in the background whilst we openly listen and question to understand.
Curiosity allows us to approach situations from a calm space where we are open to difference. We can respect others views without making ours wrong. We can listen without having to judge and make wrong. This is what we call being tolerant. People who are more tolerant of what others say and do have more empowering relationships. They have conflict, which is handled well. They challenge each other without talking things personally. They hold each other accountable and seek alignment. They grow as a result of their relationships, not shrink due to their limiting beliefs.
The world needs people who are more tolerant. It starts with you.
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