Many years ago I worked as an assistant manager for a fast food restaurant. During a management meeting, a “trouble” employee was discussed, which confused me as I never had any issues with this employee. I talked with the employee later that evening, a teenager who explained that he just could not get along with one of the other assistants because she was just mean to him. He explained that he tried to work hard and she was just mean so he would just quit doing anything. Of course, my next question was if he thought this was the best approach.
We took a look at the situation and came up with the following questions:
- Could he realistically change the behavior of the assistant manager?
- Could he honestly accept, without judgment, that the assistant manager was going to behave in a certain way?
- Could he understand that accepting the behavior did not mean agreeing with the behavior?
- Could he change his current behavior based on these answers?
- Could he be willing to accept the situation as it is, not as he wants it to be?
With this different viewpoint, he was able to understand that the situation was not about him personally, that the behavior was typical of that assistant manager. Although he didn’t agree with the behavior, he accepted that this was “how she was” and he went on to work as hard for her as he did for me. He later would tell me that it was difficult, yet when she would yell at him, he would just think back to our conversation and push through. At the next management meeting, the other managers talked about how much this employee had improved. They had no idea why.
Radical Acceptance can be difficult because we often want situations or people to act the way we want them to. As well, we are quick to snap to conclusions that something must be our fault or even take on ownership of blame that is not ours to own. It is letting go of how we think things “should be” and accepting how things “are.”
This is hard. It is like we are wired to believe that if we accept something, that means we automatically agree to it. Not so. I can accept that you love liver and onions, and I don’t have to agree with you on it. You can accept that I like to shave a mohawk in my hair and paint is multiple colors, and you do not care for it. See the pattern? Yet, for the record, my colored ‘hawk is pretty awesome 🙂 Someone may believe the grass is blue and I believe it is green.
ACCEPTANCE DOES NOT MEAN AGREEMENT