We often get stuck sputtering out rationalizations like, “people are stupid,” “people are crazy,” and even, “you just can’t trust people these days.” These are irrational and frankly absurd beliefs that we use to fulfill our lack of understanding when others wrong us in small ways. You know, simple stuff. Like the grocery store clerk not saying thank you.
We can get unstuck by assuming that people are doing their best. I really appreciate this philosophy that Brené Brown shares in her latest book, Rising Strong. This idea is impossibly difficult accept at first. Yes, people do harbor malicious intent. But most of the time, inconsiderate behavior is better to be viewed with the benefit of the doubt and the presumption that – for example – they are having a bad day. We often go so far as to take those gestures personally, as if they are some kind of attack on our own personhood. This type of thinking is detrimental to our happiness. It causes us to be less open to strangers, creating a world with fewer smiles and friendly hellos. Associating strangers with danger is a great example of an effort to protect ourselves that backfires.
Rather than assuming people are doing their best, I choose to assume ignorance. I assume people don’t know my story and I don’t know theirs. When someone does something inconsiderate, I still experience the knee-jerk reaction of judgment and upset. But I now, pause to humor the notion that I have no clue what they are going through. It doesn’t make hurtful behavior acceptable – that is not the point. The point is it allows me to release toxic emotion which feeling and holding on to is a costly choice that is severely damaging to my own wellbeing.
“It means that we stop loving people for who they could be and start loving them for who they are.”
- Brené Brown
Improving at this is a matter of being more mindful. You can only fight inconsiderate and hurtful behavior with considerate and loving behavior. It works in a cycle…if we choose to give others more love no matter what they do, and no matter how counterintuitive that seems, we soften the collective hearts of all. And that my friends, means making the world a better place to live.
Ethan Small has been posting to Friendly Warrior since 2013 with his experiences and wisdom to inspire others to improve their quality of life.
First time here? Start with these posts:
10 Reasons Pain is Good
5 Steps to Eliminate Worry
Persistence Makes Perfect