I have now read forty-three chapters of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and there are still a lot more chapters left. I want to share said forty-third chapter to you guys. It is entitled Become an Antrophologist and this is what Richard Carlson has to say about it:
Anthropology is a science dealing with man and his origins. In this strategy, however, I’ll conveniently redefine anthropology as “being interested, without judgment, in the way other people choose to live and behave.” This strategy is geared toward developing your compassion, as well as a way of becoming more patient. Beyond that, however, being interested in the way other people act is a way of replacing judgments with loving-kindness. When you are genuinely curious about the way someone reacts or the way they feel about something, it’s unlikely that you will also be annoyed. In this way, becoming an anthropologist is a way of becoming less frustrated with the actions of others.
When someone acts in a way that seems strange to you, rather than reacting in your usual way, such as, “I can’t believe they would do that,” instead say something to yourself like “I see, that must be the way she sees things in her world. Very interesting.” In order for this strategy to help you, you have to be genuine. There’s a fine line between being “interested” and being arrogant, as if secretly you believe that your way is better.
Recently I was at a local shopping mall with my six-year-old daughter. A group of punk rockers walked by with orange spiked hair and tattoos covering much of their bodies. My daughter immediately asked me, “Daddy, why are they dressed up like that? Are they in costumes?” Years ago I would have felt very judgmental and frustrated about these young people–as if their way was wrong and my more conservative way was right. I would have blurted out some judgmental explanation to my daughter and passed along to her my judgmental views. Pretending to be an anthropologist, however, has changed my perspective a great deal; it’s made me softer. I said to my daughter, “I’m not really sure, but it’s interesting how different we all are, isn’t it?” She said, “Yeah, but I like my own hair.” Rather than focusing on the behavior and continuing to give it energy, we both dropped it and continued to enjoy our time together.
When you are interested in other perspectives, it doesn’t imply, even slightly, that you’re advocating it. I certainly wouldn’t choose a punk rock lifestyle or suggest it to anyone else. At the same time, however, it’s really not my place to judge it either. One of the cardinal rules of joyful living is that judging others takes a great deal of energy and, without exception, pulls you away from where you want to be.