The Best Advice I’ve Heard in a Long Time

Like most people on this planet, I have some hot-tempered friends and relatives in my life. Although they’re lovely the vast majority of the time, if they get upset, they can come in hot and say things they end up regretting.

This can also happen with strangers. While I was biking down the street the other day, a man yelled from his car, “Watch where you’re going, don’t be an idiot!” I was in the bike path following the rules, but for whatever reason he was furious.

Or I’ll get a salty comment or DM. Someone recently wrote about me, “I thought Trump and Biden were jerks until I realized others could take it further.” Lol what?!

When I was younger and got into confrontations like these, I might have snapped back. “Omg stop texting me!” “I’m in the bike lane, relax!” “How dare you?”

But these days, older and wiser, I’ve learned a different approach, inspired by my mom. “People are embedded in complete worlds of their own,” she always says. “They have their own reasons and stresses for doing things which may be completely unconnected to you — and often are! Hold your ground if necessary and be confident in yourself, but at the same time forgive others and let their little crazinesses go unpunished. Maybe they actually need your compassion.”

How beautiful is that? The other day, I was reading Jane Ratcliff’s interview with author Gina Frangello. And I saw my mom’s sentiment phrased in a cool and concise way.

“‘Don’t bite the hook,’” said Gina. “I don’t think I’ve ever found myself in a bad situation since then when I haven’t thought of [my friend Jane’s] advice and, when I’m smart, applied it.”

Yes!!! Don’t bite the hook. What a great way to put it. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to stand there and take it, but you don’t have to engage with unhinged anger. Someone may toss the hook in your direction — and lash it around — but you don’t have to bite it and lash around, too.

And a compelling comment left on that newsletter? “‘Drop the hot potato,’” wrote Constance Ford. “If someone in an unregulated emotional state tosses some painful words in your direction, don’t toss them back. In my mind, the potato advice is not suggesting we be doormats, but that we take the time to reflect on what that hot potato tosser may be going through and find a way to listen and respond, rather than just reacting.”

Don’t bite the hook. Drop the hot potato. Forgive their little crazinesses. However you want to phrase it, the advice feels revelatory.

P.S. How not to hold a grudge, and what’s the most helpful thing a therapist ever told you?

(Photo from The Mindy Project.)

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