Navigating difficult relationships with love

Triggers, judgements, mirrors, and empathy: Navigating hard relationships with love

The other day a dear friend asked me, “What do when people you’re around just plain get under your skin?” Dang. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been there. I’m sure you can relate. Whether it’s your “annoying” co-worker, “attention seeking” sibling, “needy” parent, or someone just spewing negativity, it’s tricky to respond in love…especially when you’re a human who gets triggered like me.

As I thought of my friend’s question, I realized how much I’ve grown in this area. I used to be highly irritated, always annoyed by others, and overly concerned with their behavior. It was hard for me to love people where they were; I always wanted people to change, and I was constantly judging their motives. Until the moment I was asked that question, I had never explained my growth in this area to anyone. My answer was simple: begin with you.

1. You’re human, but you can choose love.

Here’s the thing- you’re human, you’re going to be annoyed from time to time, the key is not to stay there and ruminate over the other person. Always, always bring it back to you. You’re going to be triggered and stretched in order to become the most loving version of yourself. Instead of seeing it as a wrong on them, or judging them for it, just ask yourself how you are being stretched to love better.  

2. Empathy is the cure for judgement.

Learning to feel real compassion and empathy for others will cure judgement. Empathy chooses to see the other person as human. “Empathy is perspective taking, staying out of judgement, recognizing emotion in other people, and communicating. It’s feeling with people.” Brene Brown

When you recognize that other people’s actions are less about you and more about their own pains, wounds, and insecurities, you will begin to see their humanity. Although your judgements may pop up, and you may be triggered, you have a newfound understanding that they are not much different from yourself. 

I love this video by Brene Brown explaining empathy: 

3. Notice the behavior, not the character flaw

Having understanding and empathy for them will help you see their actions separate from their character. They may act annoying to you, but they aren’t an annoying person. It’s a behavior: learned, developed, and truly, not yours to judge. Choose to see them in the light you wish yourself to be seen: with good intentions, as a good person who is deserving of love and kindness.

4. What does this say about you?

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Everyone is your mirror. That co-worker, your mother-in-law, your best friend, your partner; everyone you meet is your mirror. Your perceptions, judgements, and beliefs are all reflected back to you when you look at others.

What are your thoughts, triggers, and judgements revealing about you?

As you begin to shift to this mindset, you will learn a lot about the yourself. You will see what areas you are loving, which you need healed, and which areas you need to grow.

5. Remove all expectations of the other person 

One of the biggest ways we set ourselves up to be in judgement is when we expect people to be someone other than who they are. Allow people to be themselves, where they are, today.  

Danielle Laporte once said, “people are generally predictable.” I’m not implying to assume the worst about people- in fact I always believe in assuming the best.  I also believe in releasing expectations and allowing people to be their predictable selves.


It is not your responsibility to change them, only to love them. When you find yourself annoyed, irritated, or triggered, always start with yourself. If you’re a human, chances are you will be triggered and have to tame your judgements in order to love. Choose to see these moments as opportunities to learn and love more deeply.

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