Responding compassionately to the angry, rude and disrespectful

Last night I attended an event where Christiana Figueres, the woman who was responsible for enacting the Paris Climate Agreement, the first time in the history of humans on Earth where all nations signed up to a single agreement, was speaking.

The topic is red hot. And it attracts red-hot emotions. 

A woman behind me clearly did not like some of the answers to questions, and wanted the audience to know what she thought. She also wanted to ensure that everyone knew that she thought Christiana was wrong.

It made me feel very uncomfortable. And quite angry myself. At the level of manners and respect, it was rude. And her loudness interfered with me hearing the speaker. 

On reflection, the woman had passion, anger, pain. She was there. Had shown up. Wanted to give voice to the burn inside.

My response might have been better to be one of compassion towards her. To inquire, where was her pain, what was causing her anger…not on the surface, but deep down? Why did she feel that she needed to be heard over everyone? Why was this her right, and not the right of anyone else? What drove her to this?

Indeed, this had been the advice Christiana had spoken of 20 minutes prior to this incident. That we need to sit with those who are angry, or deny, dismiss, or argue. Instead to listen, inquire, understand. 

This is hard work. It means we need to get over our own righteousness. We need to acknowledge that anger is pain and passion, and therefore is means that the person cares about something. What is that something?

The manner of her response was immature, disrespectful and unhelpful to her cause. Yet at the least, I can acknowledge that she had left her home inspired to act. 

In our polarised world, we might all take time to respond with greater compassion and the desire to understand. If not, we reduce ourselves to the level of an immature response, each feeding off the other. And the cycle continues.

March 12th 2020

Photo taken March 12th, 2020