What if we viewed the frustrating people in our lives with the same eyes through which we gaze upon young children?
Some people may detest young children and so, for those people this may not be the best idea… but for the rest of us, we typically feel a compassion for young children that we do not feel for exasperating adults. We expect adults to behave rationally but we accept that children cannot, or may not, behave rationally. We expect adults to be guided by logic and reason but we anticipate that children will be guided by irrational desires and runaway emotions so prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
For a moment, reflect inward. Consider the decisions you make throughout the day. Do you arrive at all your decisions rationally and logically? Are you a creature of reason or a creature of emotion? I suspect that at first, your answer will be a resounding “YES! I am a creature of reason who makes decisions rationally and logically!” yet I believe that once you dig a little deeper and reflect a little harder, and once you find a few more examples of your daily decision-making, you will begin to appreciate how emotionally-driven your decisions actually are and how much of the logic that stands out in your decision-making process actually comes after you’ve decided and you now need to justify why you decided the way you did.
This decision-making phenomenon of using logic to buttress an emotionally-based decision is well documented in books such as Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely, and Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, and the research their books are based on. Despite this however, most people remain convinced that their decisions are rooted in logic and everyone else is f*@ked up for not behaving rationally too.
What if we started viewing ourselves as well as those frustrating people in our life through the same filter of irrationality through which we willingly perceive children? What if we accepted that adults are just little children, often hurting and confused on the inside, gripped by fear that they are not enough? Is it really such a stretch to imagine that the frustrating behavior of your co-worker, friend, parent, or spouse is really just a reflection of unconscious pain they’re experiencing on the inside? Maybe they don’t mean to hurt you; maybe their words are just a reflection of confusion, anxiety, or fear and maybe their reactions, whether mean, impassioned, or depressed, is really a reaction to past experiences, and not to anything you did or said?
As you go through your day today, maybe you can remain a little detached and whenever someone acts offensively towards you, ask yourself, “What might this person be feeling right now? Because I know their reaction has nothing to do with me.”