The First Trick

OK. I want to wow you. So I’ll start with a really good trick that you can put to work this very day.

The trick is based on the premise that emotions are contagious. Through empathy, of course. But also through behaviors.

You want to make me mad? Pretend you don’t hear me. Let me repeat myself three times. Then watch me explode.

But back up: Why would you want to make me mad? Possibly — probably — because you are mad. Maybe at me. Maybe at somebody else. But you are holding it in and you want to let it out. But not in a way that will get you in trouble.

So you make me feel your mad for you.

Here’s the trick: When I feel angry, when my anger surprises me, like it came out of the blue, I try wondering if the person I’m angry at might be angry themselves. Then I wonder why they might be angry.

I’m always surprised at how easy it is to answer that question.

I call this trick Making the Flip. You turn your attention to your inner experience then flip it around by wondering if your experience matches someone else’s.

Try it today. When you’re suddenly struck by a strong emotion — impatience, irritation, hurt — ask yourself, “Is this how that person is feeling?” If your answer is “yes” or even “maybe,” wonder on. “Why might that person feel that way?” Let compassion and reason flow. Behave accordingly. See what happens.

If your answer is “no,” check your inbox tomorrow morning.

Betsy BurrisComment