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Are they really trying to annoy you?

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

“We believe people are doing their best.” (we (NeithPax) do, it’s on our website and everything)


That might seem like a bold statement. What was your first reaction when you read it? Agreement? Cynicism? A thought of “You clearly don’t work for the same company as me!”?


So why do we feel that way? Why do we often feel like we are the only person in a situation that understands what’s going on, or has even the faintest grasp on reality?


Well, people speak and act in ways that make sense to them. We interpret what people say and do in ways that make sense to us.


Consider if you have ever accidentally cut somebody up while driving. Perhaps you were driving a road for the first time and the exit you wanted came up sooner that you were expecting. Maybe there was an emergency and in your haste you cut across someone. From your perspective your actions made absolute sense because you understood all the parameters impacting your decision making.


Now put yourself in the position of the person you cut up. What’s their immediate reaction? Anger leading to a string of evocative language? Exactly the same events eliciting completely different reactions from us. Why?


We often assume the emotion someone’s words or actions elicit in us was intentional. If the emotions are negative, that they deliberately tried to anger or upset us. And if that is the case we either go on the defensive, or the attack, further reinforcing our perception of what happened.


So, back to the opening statement, “We believe people are doing their best”. What can we do when the people around us, either at work, at home, or cutting us up on the drive home, speak or act in ways that we find challenging? Three seemingly simple things:

  1. Exercise COMPASSION - Recognise that you cannot know everything that has brought that individual to this point, and even if you could, it doesn’t automatically mean you would understand it. Recognise though that what they are saying and doing makes sense to them, and the likelihood they are deliberately trying to anger or offend you, in reality is vanishingly small.

  2. Exercise CURIOSITY - Separate the person from their words and actions, and be curious about them. Seek to understand what their motivations might be. What are they really trying to achieve?

  3. Build a CONNECTION - When we suspend judgement, when we seek to understand someone better, when we look to contextualise their words and actions from their perspective, we build connections with those around us, and connection makes our lives more enjoyable.


What do you think? Are compassion, curiosity and connection the way forward or are we missing the point?


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