Is it really your responsibility to be No. 1?

Being Ordinary


The Byron Katie method

You’ve been snubbed by an acquaintance at a party. You got a limp handshake and lack of eye contact. Later, looking across the room, you see her laughing with someone else. You frown.

You think, “Who is she to snub me?”

What you don’t know is that a moment before greeting you, she had pocketed her cell phone after not getting an answer from the babysitter. Her mind wasn't on you at all.

We humans are habitual story-tellers. Part of our survival apparatus is to constantly make things meaningful. We find a meaning and believe it. Then we act on it. Problem is, we have our individual distortions that can prevent us from seeing other possible meanings.

Byron Katie is a contemporary teacher and author who developed a simple, practical way to test your assumptions in the face of a conflict. It can help when someone looks at you cross-eyed, when an employee seems to be at odds with you or you with your boss, when anything seems to have gone wrong. It interrupts the likelihood that you’ll tell an incomplete story and miss out on a chance to join rather than separate.

Write down your issue or, if you’re not near paper, tell yourself what you believe. In the example, “I was snubbed by Mary.”

Now ask these four successive questions.

1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?

Now turn your original statement around. Instead of “I was snubbed by Mary,” imagine that the truth could be “I was not snubbed by Mary,” or “Mary was snubbed by me,” or “I was greeted with as much warmth as she could muster by Mary.” There are usually multiple ways to turn the original belief around.

If you do this a lot, over time you start to become aware of just how maddeningly distorted your stories are. They sound true, but often they’re anything but. The self-generated truth tends to close things off, and keeping open to other possibilities tends to move people toward better solutions and less conflict. Over time that second question, “Can you absolutely know that it is true?” moves from a relatively rigid “Yes!” to a more skeptical and curious, “I don’t know.”

For more information, here's a link to Byron Katie's website.