I am always fascinated by what people say about others. Inevitably, what people say about others says mountains about them. I remember one student of mine who loved to complain about his wife's communication ability. He loved to tell the class, "She's got an attitude. She never makes sense. She doesn't think anything through before talking."

He was in my writing class, and on the fist day of class I announced that I would be giving a test in two weeks. I even wrote the test date on the board, and each day I added study page numbers under the date so everyone would know what to practice. The day before I gave the test, I spent the entire class reviewing for it. At one point, I even gave my students examples of problems that previous classes had found difficult.

At the end of the class, this complaining husband came up to ask, "When is page 51 due?"

I looked up in surprise and assured him, "You don't have anything due. You just have to study up for the test."

"Test?" he said with surprise.

"Yes, tomorrow's test."

"We have a test tomorrow?"

I pointed gently to the test notice that I had written on the board two weeks before, and then I said as slowly and clearly as I could, "Tomorrow you have a test, and you need to study those pages from your book in order to do well."

"You're kidding," he said, listening for the first time. "We have to know all that stuff by tomorrow?"

This student likes to say that his wife doesn't make sense. Reflection suggests that his real problem stems from not understanding how to make sense of her; and you know it's tough to make sense of anyone when you don't know how to listen.

Unfortunately, this student isn't unusual; he's just an obvious example. We all find it easier to blame circumstances for our problems. But our circumstances rarely change unless we change first. So, if you want to fix your problems, start by fixing yourself.

I'd like to offer you a technique to help you begin; it's a rule called reflection and it simply states that the world you perceive is a reflection of who you are. Put simply, if you have a problem with the world and the people in it, you are seeing a reflection of a corresponding problem inside yourself. Moreover, if you try to solve your problems on the outside without considering your problems from the inside, you'll keep running into the same problems. And your problems outside won't go away until you adjust and correct the corresponding problems from within.

So how do you put this rule into action?

Well, the next time you feel upset by what someone says about you, remember that what people say about you is never an accurate reflection of you. What people say about you is really a reflection of them. When people complain about you, they are really saying something about who they are and what they believe. Their words are clues to the struggles that they are having inside. So instead of just hearing the words that others use, you should try listening to the messages behind their words. When you understand what others intend, you can act upon their intentions with understanding.

And whenever you are frustrated with someone else, remember that any frustration you feel is usually a reflection of something lost inside of you, something that wants to be made whole. Make yourself whole, and the frustration goes away. Follow this rule, and you will actually begin to see life's frustrations as divine gifts designed to help you understand yourself. In other words, listen to what you say about others. What you say about others says everything about you.

You can find much more about this topic on Navigating Life's website, including tables, examples, and exercises designed to help you put this rule into action.

Author's Bio: 

Lynn Marie Sager has toured over two-dozen countries and worked on three continents. Author of A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life, Lynn currently lives in California; where she fills her time with private coaching, public speaking, and teaching for the LACCD and Pierce College. She runs the Navigating Life website, where she offers free assistance to readers who wish to incorporate the rules of worthwhile living into their lives. To read more about how you can use these rules to improve your life, visit Lynn's website at www.navigatinglife.org