Many interactions these days have a kind of bumper-car quality to them. At work, at home, on the telephone, via email: We sort of bounce off of each other while we exchange information, smile or frown, and move on. How often do we actually take the extra few seconds to get a sense of what's inside other people -- especially their good qualities?
In fact, because of what scientists call the brain's "negativity bias" (you could see my talk at Google for more on this), we're most likely to notice the bad qualities in others rather than the good ones: the things that worry or annoy us, or make us critical.
Unfortunately, if you feel surrounded by lots of bad or at best neutral qualities in others, and only a sprinkling of dimly-sensed good ones, then you naturally feel less supported, less safe, and less inclined to be generous or pursue your dreams. Plus, in a circular way, when another person gets the feeling that you don't really see much that's good in him or her, that person is less likely to take the time to see much that's good in you.
Seeing the good in others is thus a simple but very powerful way to feel happier and more confident, and become more loving and more productive in the world.
- Slow down -- Step out of the bumper car and spend a few moments being curious about the good qualities in the other person. You are not looking through rose-colored glasses; instead, you are opening your eyes, taking off the smog-colored glasses of the negativity bias, and seeing what the facts really are.
Last and not least: Recognize that the good you see in others is also in you. You couldn't see that good if you did not have an inkling of what it was. You, too, have positive intentions, real abilities, and virtues of mind and heart. Those qualities are a fact, as much a fact as the chair you're sitting on. Take a moment to let that fact sink in. You don't need a halo to be a truly good person. You are a truly good person.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 20 languages) and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 8 languages). Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he's been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine and he has several audio programs with Sounds True. His weekly e-newsletter - Just One Thing - has over 36,000 subscribers, and suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.
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