Other people are the worst!
No really….isn’t that what all of us think at some point or other? That other people are the worst?!!
When we’re driving on the highway and someone cuts us off – “That person is an idiot, they can’t drive”.
When we’re at the grocery store – “That lady is in my way, she’s being so inconsiderate”.
The person in front of us at the airport is taking too long to get their stuff out – “Ugh, why can’t people figure this out”.
Someone disagrees with us, or does something in a different way than we would – “They are so stupid”
“Why can’t my co-worker ever do their job right?”
“Why is my husband always leaving his clothes everywhere?”
“Why are they acting that way?”
Are you seeing a trend here? Other people are the problem and we aren’t. Ever.
It’s easier to judge someone than it is to take the time to understand them. We act like we know it all, like we’ve never been new at anything, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We would never act that way, we would never cut someone off, we would never forget something in our pockets when going through the scanner.
But, the reality is, we probably HAVE acted that way (or in a way that other’s didn’t approve of), we HAVE cut someone off at some point (even if we didn’t mean to), and it’s so easy to forget something in your pocket when you’re in the madness of the security line at the airport.
Please, don’t think that I’m judging you in saying any of this, I catch myself doing it. This post was inspired by the fact that I’ve caught myself saying all of these things before.
Why are we so hard on other people? Why do we think like this?
1) One of the biggest reasons that we get so irritated with other people is because, we are irritated with ourselves, or we’re frustrated with a situation, and we’re projecting that outward.
How can you know if you’re doing this? Ken Wilber suggests this: (paraphrased) if a person or thing in our environment INFORMS us, if we receive what is happening as information or as a point of interest, we probably aren’t projecting. If it AFFECTS us, if we are pointing a finger in judgement, chances are we are a victim of our own projections.
We often project our feelings outward because we are trying to pretend that we are perfect so that others don’t see our flaws and judge us. If we point the finger at someone else, point out what they are doing wrong, then we think that the spotlight is off of us. This thought process hurts us in two ways: 1) It gives us false confidence. Just because we point the finger at someone else, doesn’t mean that others aren’t still looking at us. 2) It puts us into a position of attracting the same types of people and situations to ourselves repeatedly, until we learn our lesson; until we learn to accept ourselves as we are, both the good and the not so good, AND until we learn to stop judging other people.
“Until we take back all the parts of ourselves we have projected away, whatever else we refuse to accept will keep showing up in our life, either in our own behavior or in the behavior of someone close to us.” – Debbie Ford
2) Instead of trying to understand people, and their ways of doing things, we deem them wrong.
People do things differently than us and we think they are stupid. We don’t try to understand WHY they may be doing it that way. Maybe they want to help and it’s the only way they know how. Maybe they have an injury and can’t do it any other way. We jump to judge how other people do things, in the process forgetting that our way is not the only way. We think that our way is best, without even stopping to try anyone else’s way.
3) We fail to see the whole picture. We only see our side of the story.
That person that cut you off in traffic may be running late to work because their alarm didn’t go off, because their electricity went out. Maybe they have an unforgiving boss, and if they are late, they will get fired on the spot. When they cut you off, they were doing their best to get to work quickly, you were in their blind spot, and they made a bad move. Maybe that woman who just seems to be standing in the way at the grocery store just lost her husband and she’s trying to learn a new way of living. She used to cook for the both of them, but now she’s just cooking for herself. She’s standing there in her own little world, trying to decide if it’s worth it or not to get that much for one person.
When you feel yourself starting to judge someone else, take a step back and observe the situation as if you were watching a movie. Ask yourself if there could be other reasons that someone is doing what they are doing, other than the one reason that you’ve settled on.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you were standing in the way, what would your reason be? If you cut someone off, how would you feel?
“Don’t judge people for the choices they make when you don’t know the options they had to choose from.” – Andrew Hager
4) Other people have been hard on us, and we’ve never taken the time to learn to be any other way.
Some of us are raised to believe that we are always right. It’s how our parents were, it’s how their parents were. Admitting that we don’t know everything, or that there is another way of doing things, isn’t even on our radar. In fact, it’s seen as a weakness to admit that you don’t know something. Or vice versa, some of us go our entire lives thinking that we can’t do or say anything right because we had overbearing parents. They would never admit that they were wrong, so we had to be the ones that were wrong. As we grew up, we adopted the same attitude. “Life is hard. Don’t be stupid.” (I’ve actually heard someone tell their child this before) Being hard on people is how they learn.
5) Sometimes we’re just mentally and physically exhausted and we aren’t making our best judgement calls.
We’re too tired to put any actual thought into why we’re reacting the way we are. We’re knee-jerk reacting, instead of thoughtfully reacting.
How can we adjust our way of thinking to more accurately reflect the situation, rather than assuming the worst?
1) Take a step back and determine if this is a one-time thing, or if it is a pattern.
If someone that you don’t know, that you’ve only seen once, does something that you don’t agree with, you can’t assume that it’s a pattern because you don’t actually know them. On the other hand, if you know someone well and they continuously do the same thing over and over again, it’s obviously a pattern.
2) Understand that it’s ok to be irritated, but it’s not ok to make a judgement call about someone’s entire personality based on one event.
When we do this, we reveal more about who we are as a person than about who they are as a person.
3) Think about how you would feel if the tables were turned.
If you made a mistake, how would you want others to handle it?
4) Give yourself a moment to be frustrated, then move on.
If someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s irritating. It’s completely normal to be frustrated in this situation. The problem arises when we hold onto this frustration and either lash out at them, ie. road rage, chasing them down, riding their bumper, etc. OR when we let this frustration spill over into the rest of our day.
5) Look inward and see if you tend to do the same thing that you are getting mad at someone else for doing.
This takes a huge helping of honesty with ourselves. It’s not always easy to look at ourselves this closely. It’s uncomfortable. We end up having to admit that we have flaws that need to be dealt with.
6) Make sure that you aren’t absorbing other people’s energy and feelings about the situation.
This is especially the case when you’re in a public place, like an airport, at work, or in a store. What someone does may not bother you, but it may irritate others around you. If you’re not careful you can take on that energy that they are projecting and react as though those feelings are your own.
Why should we adjust our way of looking at people?
1) We never know what someone else is dealing with.
I’m not suggesting that people can be rude and just get away with it. However, we tend to be unwilling to cut people any slack. If they do something one time then we assume that’s who they are. If someone cuts you off once, they must be a complete jerk. If someone snaps at us in the check-out line, then they are a rude person.
2) We need to be kind to those around us.
We need to be more understanding of those around us. If we are, then we’re more likely to feel that people are being understanding when we mess up. How we think about others, how we treat others, is how we believe others think about us or feel about us.
3) How we look at other people affects how we look at ourselves.
If we’re harsh or unforgiving when someone makes a mistake, then we assume that others will be the same way when we make a mistake. Our outer world reflects our inner views.
So yes, sometimes other people are the worst, but more often than not, they just need a little more understanding. When we find ourselves judging another person for something, we need to step back and ask ourselves how we would feel if we were them. Because the truth is, sometimes we’re the worst too.