For as long as I remember, I have been this person judged and admonished for being rude and arrogant. I have been direct in my communication to the point of aggressiveness. I suppose I lived all of my childhood with such deceit and farce of a “happy family and childhood” while hiding behind it being such a complete two-faced lie that my life was, I became extremely direct and truthful in my communication. There was no filter between how I felt and what I said, I didn’t care how my words affected the person in front of me. In my view if they couldn’t swallow the bitter pill of truth I shoved at them, it was their problem. After all, my life was about swallowing the bitter pill of life everyday.
Further, the lack of emotionally healthy people who had time or capacity to teach me emotional self-regulation and communication made it worse. I was little and picked on by many, the only defence were my sharp words and there was no way I was going to let go of them. I had a habit of launching physical assault in a fashion befitting my little-ness – I would just quickly hit the bigger family member of my generation with both my hands before they could grab both my wrists with one hand and immobilise me and render me completely helpless. This stopped one day when my aunt complained vehemently about this behaviour to my mother. From what I recall, she shamed my mother and scolded her for being incapable of “controlling” my bad behaviour.
My mother in her fiery temper tied my hands with a rope while scolding me and slapping me, asking me if I would ever do it again. After that day I was rendered completely defenceless and helpless. I developed an even more fiery anger and deep resentment and powerlessness over my ability to look out for myself.
Anyhow, I digress. This was why words came in handy until I ended up in a job I really liked and found out that everyone disliked my guts and arrogance. That people could not deal with my aggressive attitude and arrogance.
I strived to really make a change and it was not even authentic at first, just a pretence but I relied on my manager and colleagues to give me feedback so I could realise my tone of voice when speaking to someone. For someone who is very career-driven there is no great motivator for human revolution than wanting to excel at work.
However, communication has been a continued struggle in my life since. I went from saying everything in my mind to saying nothing for fear of ruining a situation beyond repair. This would lead to a build-up of frustration often leading to massive outbursts.
To an extent, I still believed that it is up to others to deal with the fallout of my extreme emotions and feelings that I could not communicate. It would often even come out in biting sarcasm beyond the tolerance of most people. I also believed that truth sets people free and it was somehow my duty to liberate them by saying the truth in the sharpest and most direct way to unshackle others.
I wouldn’t say that I have completely gotten rid this tendency. However, I have found a way to hack it.
I still very much appreciate being able to be direct and truthful, to me it is a sign of courage. However, when I am about to say something I question why I am saying it. Is it because I want to defend my stand? Is it because I want to show I am smarter than the person in front of me? Is it because I want to rescue the other person from their way of thinking by giving them the “right” answer?
If I find the answer to any of these is yes, it is time for me to pivot and reframe. Instead of being right, could I somehow use this communication as an opportunity to express care, to show faith in the person in front of me and respect their Buddha nature? Could I somehow use this as an opportunity to shed light on another way of thinking to enable their growth? Could I bring them closer to the truth of the law of life through my own behaviour?
Even when all else is too hard, the most fundamental hack is to unambiguously think about the happiness of the person in front of me while being authentic. This helps prevent me from saying things that will cause pain and suffering but also steer clear of self-sacrifice and self-deprecation.
And when I fail anyway, it gives me the courage to admit and realise where I may have hurt someone, to explain and offer my apology with an authentic reason for my deficiency in that moment. Then I redetermine and again start striving towards their happiness without feeling how they should do this or that. It leads to bringing people closer, and building of trust, where I can be a true support and champion in supporting their life journey while realising that it is still up to them to overcome their struggles. I focus on continuing to make causes towards oiling the wheels to enable smooth motion of the cart wheels of their lives and human revolution.
All this stems from my determination for kosen-rufu and showing the proof of my practice in my character.
Nichiren writes, “The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behaviour as a human being.”
Also as SGI President Ikeda writes, “The key to the flowering of humanity of which Buddhism speaks is steadfast belief in people’s goodness and dedication to cultivate this goodness in oneself and others.”