I know it’s hard to believe people are doing their best when somebody cuts you off in traffic, you’re in line at the grocery store and people are tapping your foot because you need a price check on your grapefruit. Maybe you’re irritated because, like me, you’re standing in line at Starbucks and the clerk says they will be right with you, turns their back, cleans a couple of glasses, and then tells a coworker that they’re going on break and walks away. I think for most human beings with a decent amount of sense, any and all of these things would probably get you to the place where you think to yourself: that person is definitely not doing the best they can!
But the truth is we don’t know. In fact, in most of the interactions we have in our lives, we don’t have the full picture. I’d actually say we don’t have 95% of the picture most of the time, especially when it comes to others. I’m not saying that doesn’t stop us from creating stories that tell us this person is being mean to us, or taking things personally, and writing long, lavish scripts in our minds about why they’re doing this or that, what they think of us, and why we need to be treated better. Yeah, that’s the common theme from my life and I’m sure it is with many people.
But the truth is we don’t know what’s going on for them. That person at Starbucks might’ve had a brother who died recently. He might’ve had suicide attempts. He might have had an argument with his mother before he left the house. He might be unsure or uncertain of many different scenarios that I can write. I can write just as many stories about why he’s behaving as he is, as I can for why he is behaving in a way that is frustrating me. The truth is, if I’m going to create emotions with the story, why am I creating ones that hurt me in the first place? In fact, why am I creating stories at all? The truth is, I really don’t know what is going on for him.
I think this is important to remember. It’s not about giving somebody the benefit of the doubt. I’m not saying put on a happy face and like what a person does. I’m just saying you might actually not know. Understanding that real truth is not looking on the bright side of humanity, but instead, accepting that people really might be doing the best they can with the tools they have in the moment they’re in
Brene Brown, a researcher, storyteller and social worker, wrote a book called Rising Strong. In this book, she talks about getting hooked by thinking that we know what other people are thinking of doing. She talks about her own discussions with her psychiatrist after meeting people that have annoyed her and how her psychiatrist said, “Don’t you think people are doing the best they can?” Her answer was a resounding no! That is, it was until she started talking to enough people. She said most people used qualifiers like: “I know it’s really hard to believe…,” or “I know it’s gonna’ sound crazy, but…” And then go on to say that most of the time they believe that people are doing what they can do with what they have.
When we think this way, it actually changes your emotional response to difficult situations. See this as a side benefit, or maybe even the main reason why you’re doing it. But, it’s probably still best to try and make a connection with people who maybe aren’t your favorite. But, at least this perspective can help you keep yourself from getting hooked by the Starbucks employee who decided to take a break right in your face.
What do you tell yourself to keep from getting ‘hooked’ in situations like this? Let me know in the comments, below.
If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable yourself to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. I provide emotional resilience coaching, so you can achieve your goals. We can meet either virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont. Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk.
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