Did I get your attention? Good. This isn't going to be a post about analyzing why people can be mean to others. Nor is it a post about me whining over the topic. What this post is really about is how we can adjust our own perspective surrounding meanness and people who do mean things.
The fact of the matter is, we have no control over how people are going to act or how they are going to treat others. We can be assertive and speak up, but ultimately how a person acts and treats others is their choice to make.
I remember the exact moment when "the magic light bulb" went off in my head that changed my entire perspective about humanity and people who do mean things. Before that, I took every mean thing someone said as a personal attack. I know I'm not alone in saying that when someone did or said something mean to me, I took it personally.
"But it's not about you. It's about them." Common advice on a perspective that, ultimately, was not helpful to me whatsoever. Why was it not helpful? Because it didn't address me or how I should react to it in the slightest. And that was the problem.
I already knew that it was my choice to speak up and let them know not to treat or talk to me that way. Does that help? Sometimes. Not all the time. Some people really just don't care about their impact on other people.
"I've lost faith in humanity."How many times have you heard other people say this in reaction to a mean thing someone says or does? There are good people out there who do good things every day and treat others with kindness. I know several of them personally.
When someone says "I've lost faith in humanity," what they're really saying is "I have expectations of humanity."
And therein lies the crux of the problem.
Remember that magic light bulb moment I spoke of earlier? One day, I held the door open for a man with a pert "good morning" added in. They proceeded to mock me, and said "Good morning!" in a high pitched voice and a sneer on their face.
"What the hell" and "Rude" were my first thoughts. But then, something strange happened. I had this overwhelming moment of insight. When this man walked in the door, I realized I'd had expectations of him - that he would appreciate what I did, that he would just say a brief "thank you" and move on his way. Obviously, that didn't happen, and so I was very disappointed. That disappointment hurt me more than anything.
So, I gathered, what if I stopped having expectations of people, positive or negative?
I tried it out. And surprisingly, it worked. I stopped taking things personally when someone would say or do something mean to me.
Why did this happen?
First, I had not lost my faith in humanity. My faith in humanity remained. I just removed my expectations. When you have expectations of another person, there is a chance that you will be disappointed in their words or behavior. There is always a chance upon meeting someone new, especially.
Instead, look at people as a blank slate when you first meet them. That way, when they do or say something hurtful, you won't feel nearly as let down as you would if you'd had expectations of them.
Once you get to know someone, you can determine if they meet your standards, and whether they should be part of your circle. Notice, I didn't say form expectations of them. People can decide to say or do mean things at any time, no matter how kind of a person they are. And that disappointment you feel will cause you to feel hurt.
By removing my expectations of other people, I have freed myself from feeling personally attacked when they say or do something mean. I no longer think, "Why are people so mean?!" I could make all manner of excuses for them - they were hurt in the past, they are having a bad day, they are stressed, things in their life feel out of control - does thinking about why they're being mean really help me emotionally, though? No. Not at all, actually. Because trying to make excuses for them does not excuse their behavior, no matter how much I wish it were so.
Do you agree or disagree with this post? Do you ever take things other people say or do personally, and why? Should we have expectations of other people? Can we hold others to high standards without having expectations of them? Is that possible?
Reply in the comments below!