Sometimes taking the time to understand yourself can help you start to understand others.
In particular when it comes to interactions and exchanges not turning out how you’d hoped or think they should. The disclaimer for what is to follow is that of course you don’t need to internalise and understand someone treating you poorly. This is more about having unrealistic expectations based on a false perception of reality.
If you find yourself caught up in thinking about the way a person should have acted in a situation or what they should have said, question it, where are the expectations coming from.
You may find that you’re so focused on the way that things should be, that you’re missing on what is actually happening.
An example could be that someone didn’t ask for your advice on something you had spoken to them about. Your initial reaction may be to feel hurt or annoyed because you feel like they should have spoken to you. But as important as it is to acknowledge your feelings, it’s important to acknowledge the feelings of others.
Ask yourself, why would this person not come to me? It could simply be that they went to someone else instead but you have a habit of berating their choices or trying to make them do what you think is best rather than trust their own judgment.
It’s so easy to just look at things on the surface and get annoyed at the other person but making a little time for introspection might help you see things differently.
Then you can decide how or if you want to change. For example, you could decide to work on telling people what you think is best without pressuring them to do what you think is right.
On the other hand, you could decide to do nothing at all, to stay just as you are. But you can’t continue to get annoyed at people when the problem is you.
And it’s not about getting caught in a spiral of blame, it’s about being aware of your interactions with other people and then figuring out how you can improve them.
When I was 16 or 17 years old sat in sociology class i remember my tutor saying ‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics’.
I felt like I understood it at the time but my understanding has definitely grown over time with experience.
The thing with numbers is we associate them with mathematics, facts and truth.
But statistics is something else entirely. Numbers can be skewed and manipulated to prove or represent anything.
If you’re collecting data in the hope’s of proving a particular point, chances are you’ll find a way.
And so when it comes to numbers we have to remember that they aren’t always representing facts.
Robin Hood is infamously known as the one who ‘steals from the rich to give to the poor.’
He is an interesting character because he forces us to see things from a different point of view.
If asked, we would probably all say that stealing is wrong but would consider it less wrong if it was for the sake of those less fortunate.
And so we don’t consider Robin Hood to be a ‘bad person’. He’s someone who does a bad thing thing for a good reason.
What would happen if we extended that level of awareness to people in real life, not to accept or encourage ‘bad’ behaviour but to simply acknowledge that we understand.
One thing perhaps not thought about often enough is that there is only a small percentage of the population that have a real understanding of science.
The rest of us simply trust what is said or what we read and choose to believe it to be true.
Or on the flipside there are those that choose to form their own opinions.
But this can often lead to a clash between those that choose to beleive and trust in something that they don’t understand and those that don’t.
This isn’t about conspiracies or trying to disprove scientific theory. Instead it is about simply acknowledging that it can be difficult to trust something that you don’t understand.
Do you really know what you want?
Often we go around telling people what we do want and even what we don’t want. Doing so can help you feel like you know and understand yourself because you’re able to articulate your needs.
What can end up happening is, when the needs you voiced are met, you come to find that it’s not what you really wanted at all.
Suddenly, you find yourself going back on your previous statement or displaying emotions like frustration or annoyance at the person who has done what you asked.
For example, you may say that you want to be left alone. However, when everyone leaves you end up getting upset.
The truth of that matter is that you didn’t really want to be left alone. Perhaps, it’s that you felt misunderstood, wanted someone to sit with you and listen or just wanted comfort. However, voicing these kinds of needs isn’t always easy because they show your vulnerable side.
It’s much easier to just say that you want to be alone, particularly when you’re not sure if the people around you are capable of meeting your real needs.
But, if you give the people around you some credit and allow yourself to be vulnerable for just a moment, you might find that you’re able to get exactly what you need.
When viewing a piece of work it’s important to understand the vision.
What is the intention behind the work?
It’s like when their is a piece of art and people don’t get. They will criticise it and complain about it or say that they don’t understand.
Those thoughts come from the perpective of the viewer.
But if you then think about it from the artists perspective or even read/listen to the artist talk about their work, you might start to understand the vision a little more.
Sometimes it’s easy for a message to get lost in translation, especially when you’re viewing it through the lenses of your own biases, interests and experiences.
I used to be the kind of person that would internalise everything.
For example, if I didn’t get the job I applied for it was because I wasn’t good enough and not that they had 7 excellent candidates and only one role to fill so not everyone could be a winner.
I could give countless other examples but me internalising those experiences all came from the same place, this feeling of not being good enough. It’s a strange realisation when you start to understand that the way you see yourself contributes to the way you experience life.
Once I started working on how I saw myself, my entire outlook on life changed.
I recently had this experience where someone was intentionally inconsiderate. In the past I’d have kept quiet, felt bad, got upset and allowed that one moment to ruin the rest of my day.
Instead, I responded by simply asking why this person chose to be inconsiderate.
I understand why some people might up being that way but it doesn’t mean they can’t change, if they want to.
Privilege is a complex thing.
I think the reason that so many people have a hard time accepting their privilege is because they feel like it negates their hard work. They’re not comfortable with the realisation that if it wasn’t for certain things about them, they would have experienced life very differently. More often than not having more hurdles to overcome.
Privilege comes in many forms: financial, gender, race, sexuality and religion for a start but there is so much more.
And so if you come under the categories of Middle class, Male, White, Straight and Christian there is evidence to show that you face less barriers. Furthermore, the categories you fit into don’t disadvantage you, for the most part.
It can be challenging for people that feel like they have worked hard to be told that they’re privileged. They’re often the ones that believe in meritocracy and feel like anyone who can’t achieve the same as them must not be working hard enough.
Ironically, it’s often that everyone else has had to work harder.
I think the easiest way to understand this whole thing of privilege is to meet more people that are not like you. That way you actually get to see the what it’s like for other people.
Whether that is not continuing education because they can’t afford it, worrying that their natural hair will be a barrier to employment or even constantly having negative assumptions thrown at them because of their religions beliefs.
The point of all this is not for you to feel bad, the point is to gain understanding and awareness.
Your privilege doesn’t negate your hard work but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
The easiest perspective to understand a situation from is your own. If you look back on past experiences you can get a good idea of why you respond the way you do, what gets you enraged and perhaps what helps you stay calm.
But a helpful perspective to try and understand is the perspective of others. For example, when you and Person A have a disagreement if you’re only willing to see things from your point of view you won’t get a full picture of the situation.
As much as you have past experiences that effect the way you are, challenges and even things stressing you out, you’re not alone in that. And so if you remember that Person A has all those same things too, it might make their perspective easier to understand.
Let’s say Person A lies to you. From your perspective you might be angry/hurt that they lied and wished that they could have been honest. But when you make the effort to understand things from Person As perspective you might realise that they have always been someone that struggles with opening up. Or you’ll remember that since you haven’t taken their honesty well in the past the lie probably wasn’t coming from a cruel or malicious place.
That doesn’t mean you need to excuse bad behaviour but it serves as a reminder that situations aren’t always as shallow as we like to pretend they are.
Understand others isn’t about psychoanalysing or thinking that you know everything about why a person is the way they are, it’s just about having compassion.
Even if we don’t say it, it’s what we’d like extended to us, so why not do the same for others.
When you discuss a complex issue with someone who has little to no knowledge of the issue, you’re unlikely to get the desired outcome.
More often than not you’ll end up frustrated and they’ll end up defensive.
It takes time to learn and understand complex issues but it also takes some unlearning.
When a person discovers new information that conflicts with their existing beliefs, they will never automatically accept it, it’s too difficult.
The things we believe shape how we define ourselves and the decisions we make so when something effects that, it’s frightening. You might find yourself questioning your entire existence.
On the other hand, it’s can be much easier to just stick with what you know.
If that’s the conscious choice you make don’t pretend that you’re not aware of the complex issues.