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Former Googler Chade-Meng Tan: How to practice ‘loving kindness’

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  • Taking parts of your work personality home with you could be the key to better personal relationships — and a happier Thanksgiving.
  • Former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan, who created a popular emotional-intelligence course and published a book of the same name called “Search Inside Yourself,” has a technique that he uses himself.
  • He uses a powerful visualization method to remind himself that the other person in the conflict wants happiness and freedom from suffering just as much as he does. 
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People usually present a facet of themselves at work that shines differently from who they are at home. The Thanksgiving table serves as the best platform to exaggerate this difference — so if you find yourself in the middle of a family conflict this Thanksgiving, a former Google engineer has the perfect strategy to help you maintain your composure. 

In his 2012 book “Search Inside Yourself,” former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan shares how he’s learned to take parts of his work personality home with him.

Tan, who was Google employee No. 107, is also the creator of the wildly popular emotional-intelligence course by the same name as the book, which he taught to thousands of his coworkers. (The course has since spread across the globe.)

In the book, Tan explains how an adaption of the “Just Like Me/Loving Kindness” practice, which he teaches in SIY, has benefitted his interpersonal relationships — specifically, his marriage.

Tan writes:

“Whenever I have a fight with my wife or a co-worker, I go to another room to calm down and after a few minutes of calming down, I do this exercise in stealth.

“I visualize the other person in the next room. I remind myself that this person is just like me, wants to be free from suffering just like me, wants to be happy just like me, and so on. And then I wish that person wellness, happiness, freedom from suffering, and so on.

“After just a few minutes of doing this, I feel much better about myself, about the other person, and about the whole situation. A large part of my anger dissipates immediately.”

Tan goes on: “I reckon this practice is a major reason being married to me does not totally suck.”

This exercise can be harder than it sounds. When you’re in the middle of a heated conflict with your partner, you’ll have to override the natural impulse to shout something cruel and hurtful. It’ll take some time before it becomes a habit.

But this exercise is also a neat example of how you can help defuse a conflict by working on your own response. Instead of focusing on changing your partner’s behavior, you’re reframing the way you see the situation — which, in the end, is really all you can control.

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