The results of my vacation experiment in acceptance

My family and I just returned from our summer vacation together.

For the few days leading up to our time away I had been journaling about my desire to be more accepting of others. I have long been inspired by colleagues like Dan whose positive attitude and acceptance of others make him one of the Olympians in my midst. He’s one guy that always leaves me feeling better about myself after being with him.

The results of my vacation experiment in acceptance

I want to be more like that, so I decided to conduct a little experiment. The Gates clan is a potpourri of Type-A headstrong personalities making our upcoming vacation the perfect petri dish to work on acceptance tactics. (Isn’t it odd that the ones we love most are often the ones with which we extend the least patience? For some reason, the social restraints we practice at work or with our friends are set aside at home—and are often altogether dispensed with on vacation.)

The experiment was simply to employ four tactics as often as I could and see what happened. To make them easier to remember, I tagged each tactic with a monosyllable rhyme: Greet, Keep, Praise, Raise.

  • Greet my family members enthusiastically when I see them. Researchers have shown that the first four minutes of any interaction sets the tone for the rest of the exchange. A positive first four minutes where the focus is on another is more likely to yield positive regard than one which is either critical or neutral (little or no notice given to another’s presence).
  • Keep quiet when tempted to tease another with pointed remarks. It’s tempting, especially in familial banter, to tease another or make a pointed comment about their foibles to another.
  • Praise someone for something they did. I so often remain silent when I see others do something well. Why not speak up and encourage them with a word of praise?
  • Raise a question that demonstrates interest in their life. My wife and I refer to these as the “Hope, Dreams, Goals & Desires” questions. I can test how well I know someone by asking myself if I could accurately describe their hopes, dreams, goals and desires.

My little experiment in acceptance was a success; not because anyone noticed. I doubt they did. But because I noticed. I noticed, to my embarrassment, how many times I successfully refrained from a pointed remark I might have otherwise made. I noticed how may opportunities arose to praise another that I probably would have missed had I not committed to look for them. And I noticed how much more enjoyable our conversations were when I took the time to engage in what matter most to them.

The experiment was a success not because I accepted perfectly—that’s a long journey for me—but because I accepted better. And I that’s an outcome I can accept.

What are ways you’ve practiced accepting others?

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2 thoughts on “The results of my vacation experiment in acceptance

  1. I love the “greet, keep, praise, raise” memory trigger. This weekend, I got a very clear message from God to do something very similar with my students and the people I interact with in the course of my day. What I know, without doubt, is that HE (God) wants me to have a true connection with others – so many people have zero, true, God-like connections in their lives. As is His way, I had a very tense situation happen in the classroom today. I knew it was my chance to obey and do it differently. Not too sure of the outcome yet, but, I too know I made a step in the Heavenly direction. I’m going to incorporate the memory trigger above to help me along.
    A motto I use (when I remember): Progress, not perfection.

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