SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share some a fresh perspective on how to have compassion for quirky people.
I have a close relative who acts like he is perfect at everything, while he makes up terrible lies about my wife and tells them to me, just to cause problems in our relationship. He also says all kinds of weird and gross things to us that seem highly inappropriate. I once made a comment about how Santa Claus isn’t real, and he told me (in all seriousness) that I could be excommunicated for saying that. Obviously, he is not right in the head and I don’t really want to be around him, but as I said, he is a close relative so that isn’t an option. What do you do with a situation like this?
The truth is most human beings are a little quirky, but some are really quite unusual. It is easy with these people to go to a place of irritation, annoyance and judgment, and even see them as broken, weird or less than the rest of us. Some people are even unstable mentally or emotionally and may be dangerous, so it’s understandable to feel threatened or unsafe around them.
Here are some things you can do if you have to live with, work near or otherwise deal with a really quirky human.
1. Choose a system for determining the value of human beings.
There is no absolute truth about the real value of a human being. Every religion and philosopher on the planet has an opinion about it, but no one can prove their theory. This leaves us with the opportunity to choose a perspective. We believe you basically have two options:
A. You can choose to see human value as changeable and in question.
This means our value can go up and down based on our performance, appearance and property. it means if you lose weight, make more money, or perform perfectly you may feel your value has gone up, and you might even feel better than other people. But if it can go up, it can also go down. So if you make mistakes, gain weight, lose your job or your family, you could also feel less than other people.
As long as you believe human value can change (and go up and down) you will also always see some human beings as having more value than other human beings because these two ideas go together. As long as you choose this system you will always be afraid you aren’t quite good enough too. You will feel this way because no matter how hard you try to perform perfectly or look perfect, you will always find people who appear better. This system for determining the value of human beings always leaves you feeling inadequate. But you can still choose it if you want to. Or you can choose this next option.
B. You can choose to see all human beings as having the same, unchangeable value.
This means you decide to base all human value on our intrinsic worth as one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, totally unique human souls, and all of us (no matter how quirky) will always be that and have the same worth. It is true that some humans will try harder, contribute more to society, and work to learn and grow, while others will not accomplish much, but these are differences in our extrinsic journey and choices and do not have to affect our intrinsic worth. At least you can see it that way if you want to.
You might want to consider choosing this system because it does two amazing things. First, it means you cannot fail, you can only learn. This perspective sees life as a classroom, not a test. With this perspective, you can make mistakes, which create amazing lessons and facilitate growth, but they never change your value. This helps you to have rock solid self-esteem (without arrogance or the tendency to see yourself as better than others, because they always have the same value as you).
Second, it helps you to stay out of judgment by seeing all humans as different (since no one on the planet gets the same classroom journey as anyone else) but all equal in value. This perspective creates compassion and makes it easier to tolerate and even accept the quirkiness in others.
2. Identify your Personality Type.
After 16 years as life coaches and working with thousands of people, we believe there are only 12 types of people in the world. When you know your type it helps you to accept your own strengths and weaknesses, and see your own quirky behavior more accurately. It also helps you to stop trying to be what others are, or expect them to be like you. Instead, you appreciate the interesting differences in us all. You can learn more about personality types and traits from the American Psychological Association.
3. Identify your (and their) balanced and unbalanced behaviors.
Understanding human behavior is simple when you understand we all function every moment, of every day, in one of two states. A trust and love balanced state, where we are at our best, and a fear state where our worst behavior comes out. When you can accept your own quirkiness, you usually become more tolerant and accepting of other people’s quirkiness too.
We believe each of us has different bad relationship behavior that comes out when our fears are triggered, and understanding yours and theirs will help you have more compassion. You will also start seeing bad behavior as scared behavior. All bad behavior shows up when someone is in a fear driven state.
When your quirky relative behaves badly, you will understand that he is either trying to create a sense of value, to quiet his fear of failure (the fear he isn’t good enough) or he is trying to create a place where he feels safe from loss. Most of the time illogical, dishonest or irrational behavior comes from trying to cover a deep fear of failure or inadequacy. Or he may actually have a brain problem that means his thinking is just inaccurate and skewed. Either way, you must let the quirky be where they are in their unique journey.
4. Honor their right to be where and how they are.
Every one of us is experiencing a totally unique, interesting and difficult classroom journey. No one on the planet will ever get the same, genes, family, upbringing and the exact combination of life experiences that you got. This means (if we see life as school) that we are all in different classes. You will never know why their journey is what it is and what lessons they are supposed to be learning from their journey. But you can trust there is reason, purpose and meaning in everything being as it is.
The amazing Viktor Frankl, in a concentration camp during World War II asked himself the question, "Am I here by accident, is it just random bad luck? Or is there purpose for my being right here having this experience?"
He pondered this question trying to determine which idea was truth. In the end, he decided there is no way to know truth on this, and this leaves us with the power to choose our mindset. He found when he chose to see life as random bad luck he suffered more, but when he chose to see meaning and purpose in the experience, it made him want to rise and do something positive with it.
"In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning," Frankl wrote in his popular book "Man’s Search for Meaning."
We can choose, likewise, to trust there is purpose in our unique journey being what it is (and with this quirky person in it). We may never know the exact reason this experience was perfect for us, but we can still choose to trust there is one.
This will help us to allow each person to be who and where they are, without judgment that they should be anything different. We can live and let live and practice loving tolerance and wisdom.
5. Have the wisdom to choose your battles.
If we choose to see our journey (and interactions with the quirky people around us) as our perfect classroom, we know resistance is futile. Instead of resisting what is and expecting people and situations to be different than what they are, we embrace them and are grateful for what they can teach us.
This doesn’t mean you stop trying to improve situations or relationships, but when there is little in your control, you will see it is wiser to let the situation be whatever weird thing it is and you don’t let it upset you. Your weird relative is providing some interesting lesson in your life, choose not to suffer too much about it.
The amount that you suffer over the quirky people and lessons in your life is totally up to you. No one can make you upset without your permission and participation. You can choose peace, trust and a feeling of safety in every moment, even when things feel weird. Choose to trust there is order in the universe and the author of it all — is in charge. Trust that the universe is a wise teacher who knows what it’s doing it will make it easier to cope when things feel crazy.
You can do this.
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