I had a chance this weekend to reflect on my backpacking travels in SE Asia and a few of the many lessons I learned. I want to share two that I learned while in Bali on Kuta beach that have greatly impacted my life since and perhaps might impact yours.
For those that have never been to Kuta Beach, it is lined with a whole bunch of little surf rental kiosks. On my first day there, I bought a surf board and surf lessons from one of the locals, Dhani. For the next few weeks I would show up every morning, surf with Dhani, and then we would spend the majority of the afternoon talking. He is incredibly smart and we shared stories about the world in general and our worlds in our respective countries. He taught me an immense amount about the culture in Bali – their way of life, the family dynamics and expectations, the nature of their relationships, the balance and appreciation they live and breath, it’s amazing.
On one of our last days together he said something to me that I’ll never forget, he said, “Krystal, you don’t have a very pretty face at all, you’re not attractive.” – yikes! talk about a slap in the face! I didn’t react or say anything though as I had grown to respect and quite enjoy Dhani’s blunt honesty during our few weeks together. It was actually really refreshing to be around someone who would just say what’s on his mind, completely unfiltered – this was his norm, I liked it. So, I just paused and really took check of my feelings, thoughts, and what I wanted to do about it. Before I said anything, he continued by said, “but (I was kind of glad there was a but, lol)…I can feel that you have a kind heart and a genuine soul.” My heart melted, it was the best compliment of my life and meant the world to me.
So, what did I learn that day?…
1. I can do a better job of letting the amazing people in my life know how much I truly appreciate who they are at their core, not just what they do.
2. I learned the power of just pausing, not reacting and turning judgement into curiousity. What do I mean? While, I could have easily reacted to the first comment – felt crappy about it, internalized it, changed my perception of Dhani, said something back, let it effect our relationship etc. But instead, I just paused, felt a bit uncomfortable in my skin and reflected on what was going on internally. I knew that he wasn’t trying to make me feel bad, so there had a to be a alternative motive. I was honestly more curious about the intention behind that statement than anything else, which in the end was to express and give context to what matters most to him in someone else and what he noticed in me.
Luckily, I had grown to know Dhani and am grateful that he said what he did because it allowed me to really check myself. But, we don’t always have the luxury of knowing a person (and therefore, are able to gauge their intentions) before we react to something that was said/emailed/heard. It’s so easy to react, jump to a conclusion or a judgement about the person or situation, and then build a story around it that re-affirms the conclusion/judgement we made.
Next time someone (that you might not know very well – a friend, co-worker, boss etc.) says something to you either in person or in an email, that rubs you the wrong way, before reacting or judging, try just pausing and being curious about the intention – what are they really trying to accomplish here? – is it just to be heard, is it to express the importance or urgency of information, is it to persuade, is it to dominate the situation or person or to exert power over them etc.
Half of what we mean, the intent, we don’t actually ever say outloud. I’m exploring the art of reading between the lines!
Till next time…
4 thoughts on “Lessons from one of the worst-turned-best compliments of my life.”
I had lots of experiences like that during the year I spent in China. Its a kind of culture shock. When accustomed to our discreet and polite way of speaking, it is always jarring to learn that other cultures have different values and vastly different styles of speaking. Mostly the Asian people I met were kind, gentle souls although I, too, had to learn to be quiet and try to see the world from their prospective.
“You are so beautiful. But you are so fat”.
OK. Take a step back, breathe. Relax. Now listen to what is really being said. At first it was awkward until I realized that this is their cultural norm. We have many kinds of beauty here, from tall, slim blonde and olive skinned redhead to dark skinned women and everything in between. I learned that there is only one kind of beauty in Asia: dark hair, small mouth, white skin, slight build, big eyes, etc. And now that Western ideals are influencing the East, larger breasts have been added to the list and have become the number one surgery requested by young women, although the government is working hard to change that. And not for the reasons you think, either.
Anyway, my point is that we interpret the world through our past experiences as these have formed the lenses that we use to understand our world. We can only see what is in the mirror that we know. Understanding other cultures, other means of communicating, or other ways of seeing the world opens up a greater view for us all.
In my world, you are beautiful in every way.
Thanks Christiane! Cultural differences are so incredibly interesting, I learned so much, and it makes me want to travel again some day 🙂
Your candid style is remarkable. A perfect article from a very talented and inspirational leader.
Thanks for the incredibly kind note Brent. See you around!