life skill 1

Illustration: Jen Troyer

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Occasionally friends, family and—in rare cases—strangers lose their minds and tell us what they really think about our lives. Sometimes it’s on purpose, and sometimes it just burbles out due to frustration or one too many glasses of rosé in the backyard. “You’re in an unhappy marriage,” they say, or, “You’re so nervous about what’s going to happen with your job that you ruin every meal we spend together.”

In response, we can smile tightly and say, “that’s something to think about!” (while listing in our heads all the reasons this person is wrong, so wrong). Another option? Agreeing with them for a split second, only to go home and suffer a case of spontaneous emotional amnesia, during which the conversation is permanently slashed from our memory.

We don’t have to do anything about this horrible, crappy piece of information. But we can just sit there and get used it, sort like how you got used to a college roommate who yelled all night in her sleep and stole your sweaters out of the closet. It may turn out that you disagree with her particular opinion, but even so, it enriches you know about it, because this is how somebody other than yourself sees the situation, and maybe it’s either time to get some distance from that jealous, unkind person or to understand that fear or love sometimes clouds her judgment. On the other hand, you may also end up agreeing with her, which is when you get a chance to listen to yourself—and decide what you want to do about taking some action.