How to enjoy other people

The powerful magic of babies, coaching and yoga

‘Hell is other people,’ said Jean Paul Sartre.

‘The secret to your happiness is relationships’ said Harvard.

Both can be true depending on how good we are at building those relationships. How we engage with other humans will define our lives. How can we learn to enjoy other people rather than be burdened by them?

What I learned from motherhood

“When you are with the Dalai Lama you feel as if he loves you the way a mother loves her baby.”

I read the above quote in James Altucher’s new book ‘Reinvent Yourself.’ If it is true, it is no surprise that Dalai Lama became the world’s most popular leader.

I like the word ‘baby’ in that phrase. A mother does not love her baby more than her other children. But she loves it differently.

With babies, you have no expectations. There is no negotiating about brushing teeth or wearing a seatbelt.

You delight in babies’ every little gesture. You enjoy them. You feel like they are a combination of fresh-made bread, strawberries, ice cream and your first love.

You justify everything they do. If they make your life difficult, there must be an excellent reason. If any other human makes your life difficult, they are insensitive and selfish. We even invented an illness, colics, to justify unexplained crying.

With your baby, there are no boundaries. They are an extension of you, and you are an extension of them. You are perfectly synchronized. When their cortisol levels are up, yours are up as well. When they giggle, you hear the song of heavens.

It is love in its purest form. We can take learnings from it and apply it to other relationships. How can you find the imperfections of your loved ones perfectly perfect? How can you assume they have the best intentions? How can you get rid of unnecessary expectations? How can you connect at a deeper level and break useless walls?

How can you enjoy them like you would a baby?

What I learned from Coaching

According to Carl Rogers, the father of Humanistic Psychology, a therapist should support a client unconditionally. Accept them irrespectively of what they say or do. He named this concept Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR).

Rogers introduced us to an incredible paradox. People can change. That is the goal of both therapy and coaching. Yet, the best way to help them change is not to push them toward change but rather the opposite. Just accept who they are now. Shortcomings included. This acceptance will create the conditions necessary for growth.

I first heard about UPR when I trained as a coach. I recognized how important it was for my coaching clients’ development. But, I thought it would require effort from my side to embrace it in my practice.

Then, I noticed something magical happening in my coaching room. Unconditional Positive Regard would emerge without any effort. Once I was listening to the raw thoughts of another human being, I could not help but see their beauty. I heard their concerns about themselves and their future, and I was instantly on their side.

I cared deeply even for those ‘difficult’ clients. It turns out that they were the ones hiding the most pain. Even behaviors that looked illogical superficially, made sense when you understood them at a deeper level. I connected and found a piece of myself in every coaching client.

It must be that when you actively listen to someone, as you do during coaching, you realize how beautiful and lovable they are. People are not perfect, just like babies are not perfect either. But they are worthy of love and unconditional support.

People think that if they show their real selves, they will become unlikable. They keep wearing masks trying to fit in. But only when we are real we can connect with other people. Maybe it is babies’ unpretentiousness and authenticity that makes them so lovable.

You can feel Unconditional Positive Regard for someone when you actually ‘see’ them. Active listening and setting aside your own agenda to focus on another person requires effort. But the results are worth it.

What I learned from Yoga

I started yoga recently. The greeting of Namaste shares two similarities with the love towards a baby. First, it assumes that people are inherently good just like we assume that babies are good. ‘I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace.’

Secondly, it nods to the lack of boundaries between people, just like we feel there are no boundaries between the baby and us. ‘When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.’

Namaste.

How to connect with and enjoy other people

So how do you love more like Dalai Lama? How do you develop Unconditional Positive Regard? How do you adopt a yogi attitude?

  • Love yourself, as you cannot love others more than yourself.
  • Believe that the person in front of you is inherently good and doing the best they can.
  • Avoid expectations. Accept who they are. Approach them with curiosity and interest. Scrap your agenda.
  • Actively listen to them. Try to understand them fully.
  • Connect. Let the boundaries dissolve even for a few seconds.
  • Enjoy their beauty.

Caterina Kostoula is an Executive Coach and a Global Business Leader at Google. Follow Caterina Kostoula on Medium, Twitter or LinkedIn.