I consider myself to be a pretty compassionate person. I’ve invested in the development and cultivation of understanding and kindness I can meet the world with more resonance and harmony. But even still, every so often I encounter someone who really gets under my skin. When that happens, I remind myself of this little gem. It has helped me find compassion for even the most tremendously challenging people:

All acts are expressions of love, either as skillful statements or calls for love in disguised forms.” – Alan Cohen

Seeing the world through that lens explains a lot, doesn’t it? It explains why some people insist on playing that tired old role of martyr or victim. It explains why some people must win at all costs. It explains why kids throw tantrums. It explains overachievement. Competitiveness. Jealousy. Addictions. Social media obsessions. All just calls for love. Clumsy ones. Desperate ones. Ugly ones. But calls for love nonetheless.

The truth is, we all just want to be loved.

So let’s bring more awareness and consciousness to the ways in which we are asking for love. Notice your behaviours and look for opportunities to be a little more honest about what you’re really seeking. Seek out opportunities to express your love as a skillful statement.

And when we witness an act that is a “disguised call for love,” let’s see it for what it is. Simply recognizing that someone is feeling unloved, outcast, small, alone or disregarded instantly softens our stance and melts away the armor so that at the very least, we can meet them with more compassion. And at best, we can use the opportunity to respond to their call (however clumsy it may be), rather than reject it, thereby breaking a cycle and creating a healed dialogue.

I’m not saying you have to go and embrace every difficult person in your life. I’m just saying, remind yourself that what we are all seeking is the feeling of that four-letter word. Then, see if you can make love both your skillful statement and your graceful response.