Being the bigger person is hard. Exercising self-control with challenging people doesn’t come naturally to most of us, which is why it can take extreme effort to hold ourselves back. Why is is so hard to be the bigger person? It may be tempting when dealing with people in unpleasant situations, such as ex-spouses, estranged relatives, cranky salespeople, or others, to fire right back at them. Temptation may be there to yell back at a yeller, to swear at a swearer, to throw something back at a thrower, to hit a hitter. Email flame wars, name-calling contests, physical fights, world wars: all these retaliations come to mind when thinking about situations which can escalate that don’t have to.
Editor’s Note: Nobody is perfect, let alone me. I received an angry email and a hateful comment on this website, both only this morning! Trust me, my first instinct was to fight back and give them a piece of my mind! What good would that do me though? It would probably hurt their feelings, and I’d be letting myself down because I know that’s not the right way to behave. It was hard to restrain myself, but I did – and I wrote this article instead of starting 2 unnecessary flame wars!
Being the Bigger Person Isn’t Easy
We try to teach our kids to “be the bigger person” or to “turn the other cheek” when someone is unpleasant to them. We tell them, “When Sam yells at you, don’t yell back. If he wants to fight with you, don’t fight back. If he calls you names, hold your tongue.” It’s not just kids that have difficulty with this concept, because we adults struggle with it as well.
A big part of running your life and being happy is learning to deal with the emotions of people around you. Remember that the only thing you are ever in control of is yourself. People react the way they do for a reason; reactions aren’t random or unfounded. We never know about personal problems / issues / addictions a person may be dealing with, and perhaps them taking it out on you is just their lack of self-control at a given moment. My friend, DeAnna, pointed out this great video that really puts things into perspective:
Being the bigger person by exercising self-control isn’t easy; it takes hard work and effort. Is it the right thing to do? Yes. Is it easier to teach to our kids than to actually do? Of course! Controlling our feelings and, in turn, our actions can be very hard! We have to become the master of our own actions and reactions and to be understanding and forgiving of others. Most of all, we would do well to expect the best from ourselves and to make allowances for others when they try to do the same and fall short.
8 Ways That Make it Easier to Be the Bigger Person
Everyone has unique ways of dealing with people in challenging situations, and sometimes knowing how other people handle them can help us as well. We asked respected individuals from a variety of fields (from sales to nursing to publishing to consulting) how they deal with angry or cranky people in challenging situations – what they do to be the bigger person. Here are their 8 ways to be the bigger person:
1. DeAnna Cochran, metalsmith & artist from Jewelry for a Cause: “Best way to deal with crankies…get their perspective and listen. Your perspective may change. People are not cranky for no reason. We all have problems.”
2. Leigh Ann Hubbard, editor of My Family Doctor: “I learned my best tip from my dad: Don’t respond & move on to something else. Hard to do but best for my mental health.”
3. Beverly Davis from Sunday Cosmetics: “My remedy for dealing with angry/crankies is to not argue with them. A soft answer truly turns away wrath.”
4. Andrea W. from Chasing Goldilocks: “Guilt them with kindness ;) No sense in bringing yourself to their level, you might as well stay positive and enjoy life!”
5. Cynthia Jones from Living – In Theory: “Don’t validate the crankies’ or angries’ behaviors. Don’t be sucked in to their drama. Only brings you down…”
6. Chris Perrin, food writer from BlogWellDone: “I always keep in mind the long term. Blowing up now probably means losing down the road.” (Pictured at left.)
7. Anya Clowers, RN from Jet With Kids: “I found the crabbiest & awful patients (hospital) were just usually scared and feeling out of control. It is not only true with patients, but people in general. If they are crabby, unfair, rude, etc. they are not happy inside. Something else is zapping their energy and leaving them only with a sour attitude.
“My husband (who is in sales) taught me that you just smile, smile, smile, and be nice – really nice. Love the day, find something about them you like and comment on it (haircut, clothes, etc.) It’s harder for people to keep being mean when he is nice. (Not annoying and fake – but genuine.) I noticed with my patients that listening was HUGE. But not focusing on their negative side is also important.
“I think the key to being the bigger person is not taking on the negative energy. Not allowing their crabbiness to enter your boundaries. And finally – people react to the energy we bring to them. Check to make sure your energy is friendly!”
8. Kay Greene, business owner from My Precious Kid: “SMILE when responding. It will come across in your voice. Ask how you can fix the issue?”
Make a serious effort at being the bigger person and reap the benefits of feeling more happiness in your own emotions!
All quotes obtained and published with permission of the interviewees. Photos are the property of their respective owners and published with permission.