“Some people find fault like there’s a reward for it.” —Zig Ziglar
Being around intolerant people is no picnic. One common strategy is to avoid them. But that won’t work very easily if that critical person is inescapable like your spouse, boss, family member or coworker.
It’s important to remember that you have a choice on how you choose to react to them. Getting defensive or argumentative with them only aggravates the situation. Intolerant people aren’t usually aware they’re being critical because their criticisms are a projection of their “stuff” onto someone else. If they’re not engaging in self-awareness, your pointing out their intolerance isn’t going to make any difference.
What do you do? Read on for helpful tips on how to handle intolerant people.
Find Compassion Because They are Suffering
An effective way to handle ignorance and intolerance is to stop focusing on their ignorance and intolerance. Shift your agitated mind to a sincere desire that these people become happy, and free of their ignorance and intolerance. No one deliberately chooses to be ignorant. It’s likely that their ignorance and intolerance originated from their own suffering and conditioning.
It’s similar to how an abused dog wants to bite people. You feel sorry for the dog because it’s been abused and is suffering. Instead of focusing on how the dog wants to bite people, your attention is on your desire that the dog find peace and happiness because then the dog won’t want to bite.
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
When you find compassion for someone, it eases your frustration with them. Embrace the differences between you, and be grateful for the lessons they’re teaching you and the opportunities to develop deeper compassion.
Extend Kindness to Them
Even though your egoic mind will vehemently argue against it, show them kindness anyway. There’s a powerful quote in the Peaceful Warrior movie: “The people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.” Chances are they are intolerant towards others because they are intolerant towards themselves. They probably aren’t aware of it, but the people they can’t tolerate are a mirror. If they unconditionally loved themselves, they would have tolerance and acceptance for others.
They aren’t giving themselves what they need and deserve like love and acceptance. So, send them a little love. Give them a smile or a hug. As you open your heart to them, it makes it easier to crack open their hearts a little bit.
They Are in Your Life as Growth Opportunities
“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” — Khalil Gibran
Everything and everyone you encounter is an opportunity to grow. The bigger the challenge, the greater the growth opportunity. Intolerant people are smack dab on the middle of your path for a reason. They are intentionally in your life to help you grow, especially those you can’t escape. Look for the lesson they offer you. What are they here to teach you? Richer levels of compassion? Deeper intensity of acceptance?
The intolerant person that drives you nuts is likely here to help you become a better person, not a bitter one. Discover the blessing they bring you.