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7 Practical Ways to Forgive and Move On

7 Practical Ways to Forgive and Move On

With the right mindset and good intentions, it is possible for you to forgive and move on. Whether it is getting yourself in the right frame of mind or if it is recognizing that forgiveness is tough, there are several practical ways you can get moving on the path of forgiveness. Let us help you make a change in your life that will pay off for years to come.

1. Recognize the Difficulty

“I learned a long time ago that some people would rather die than forgive. It’s a strange truth, but forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s an evolution of the heart.” Sue Monk Kidd

The struggle is real. I have heard many a time that bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. While that may be true, bitterness feels effective in the moment. It feels like the only just punishment for what has been done to you. I believe that feelings are a powerful tool that can give insight and help us make decisions, but when it comes to forgiveness our feelings cannot lead us into battle. The reality is that you will likely never feel like forgiving someone. That may come later, but if you are waiting to feel forgiveness for someone it will not happen.

A crucial step in forgiveness is recognizing that choosing to forgive someone is insanely difficult. It will go against all of your instincts. If it feels hard you are probably on the right path, so keep going! Set yourself up for success by recognizing that it will be hard and you are not alone in this challenge.

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“The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.” Marianne Williamson

2. Tell Your Story

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Lewis Smedes

One of the most powerful ways to move towards forgiveness is to tell your story. Contrary to popular belief, merely venting is rarely effective. What makes a difference is having someone witness your story and validate your experience. Take the time to share what has happened to you with someone trustworthy. Healing begins when we face our pain in the presence of another person.

Carefully consider who will hear your story. As a culture we are not well trained in responding to another’s pain. Sharing your heart with someone is a vulnerable choice which can lead to healing, but if not properly cared for can also cause more damage. So care for yourself and choose your confidant’s wisely!

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3. Grieve Your Losses

“If I say, ‘I forgive you,’ I have implicitly said you have done something wrong to me. But what forgiveness is at its heart is both saying that justice has been violated and not letting that violation count against the offender.” Miroslav Volf

Some people would like us to bind up our wounds in a pretty package and move on with our lives. Many of us succumb to this social pressure and quickly gather our broken pieces together with a forced smile, leaving unaddressed pain lodged like a sliver in a scabbed over wound. Your wounds may appear to be healing, but with a thorn lodged under your skin there will always be pain. The only way to get through the pain is to experience and grieve your losses. Forgiveness is almost always about recognizing losses. What was done to you needs to be brought into the light and seen for what it was – a terrible loss of some form. You cannot sweep it under the rug or make it less than what it was. When you face the pain another person has caused you, then you will be able to take the steps towards healing and forgiveness.

“A personal offense is like a scratch on a phonograph record. I couldn’t move my thoughts beyond my pain. It kept repeating, as if I were stuck within its grooves. There was only one way to play beyond it. I had to forgive them, so my heart could take its form again.” Laurel Lea

4. Identify Learned Habits

“I tried to manipulate and control people, and I harbored resentment. I wanted to be forgiven, but I wouldn’t forgive others.” Lauryn Hill

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Part of forgiveness is being fully honest about has been done to you. This includes recognizing habits and patterns that you have adopted to compensate for your pain. The human body is not meant to harbor bitterness. Trauma, left unaddressed, lives in our bodies. How does your pain manifest itself? What do you do to daily act out the message that was sent to you when you were wronged? This question is hard to answer because it puts us in a frustrating place. It is easy to protest that the way we act is a result of the harm done to us, which is true. It is harder to peer into our own hearts, have compassion on ourselves and choose to take our lives on a different path. We do not need to be defined by what has been done to us. As long as we are acting out that message wrongly sent to us, we are allowing ourselves to be controlled by the perpetrator. A big step in forgiveness is admitting that we have (likely) also done wrong as a result of being wronged and not forgiving.

5. Practice Empathy

“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” Thomas Fuller

A big step in forgiving someone is to humanize them. This does not mean making excuses for what they have done, but rather recognizing that they are flawed and carry damage of their own. Recognizing the humanity in another person allows you to break some of those messages that bound you. For example, rejection is a painful experience that may have led you to doubt and even hate yourself. Empathy helps us to understand that being rejected was not a reflection of our worth, but a reflection of the flawed human nature of the rejector. Practicing empathy takes the damaging focus off of us and on to the true problem: the person causing pain. Forgiveness is a rocky journey made smoother through seeking to understand and empathize.

6. Keep a Journal

“I didn’t have a catharsis for my childhood pain, most of us don’t, and until I learned how to forgive those people and let it go, I was unhappy.” Tyler Perry

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Writing is a healing practice. It slows our racing minds down and teaches us to dance to a slower beat. Writing allows us to dig through the muck in our hearts or minds and leave it out on a page. Slowly the weight will come off of your shoulders as you learn to filter your thoughts. Writing can be a place to vent our anger, grieve our pain and explore our hearts. It can also be a place to revisit when struggling with forgiviness in the future. Forgiveness itself is a foggy jungle maze, that can be made clearer through the practice of journaling.

7. Push Through

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’ Maya Angelou

You will have a choice to make. Forgive or don’t. Then you will need to keep making that choice over and over maybe for the rest of your life. You do not need to forgive. It is your choice – liberating isn’t it? You can choose to hold on to the anger forever. If you do choose forgiveness however, you cannot wait until you recieve an apology or until you feel like it. They will probably never deserve your forgiveness and it will never be fair. But healing and living a full life requires us to forgive. Most of us are more determined to live our lives full and free than we are to get even. If you want to forgive there comes a point where you need to just do it. Without forgoeing the necessary steps towards healing, choosing forgiveness is often times a matter of ignoring every instict you have and just choosing to be finished with it.

No one escapes this life unscathed. If you find yourself needing to forgive someone, you are in good company with the whole human race. Take time to care for yourself in this process. Give yourself grace to approach each stage imperfectly. Embrace the messy. Life is hard, many times excruciating, but forgivness is a gift given to us. It is an chance to escape lifelong dread and [eventually] restore ourselves to freedom.

“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.” Tyler Perry

Featured photo credit: Paulo Otavio Diniz Rodrigues via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward to talk to strangers. What is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

Numerous studies have shown that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]

A very interesting by-product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Another reason is that humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources. When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

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Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

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To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

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Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the techniques to talk to strangers, moving forward, you’ll reap these many benefits of getting over the awkwardness:

  • Broadens Your Network – After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.
  • Improves Your Communication Skills – I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become. Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.
  • Continually Learning – So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment. Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.
  • Increases Self Confidence – Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves. Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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