What if people have good reasons for what they do?
What if most people, most of the time, have solid reasons for those bizarre things they do?
This is a new thought for me. I see people behaving inexplicably all around me all the time. I tend to get pretty frustrated with people when they behave oddly, usually taking it personally. I’ll think they are rude or trying to make my life difficult. I think they should be paying more attention to the effect they are having on others, specifically me!
Starting from a point of considering that there might be a good reason for their actions gives me a new perspective. Instead of feeling defensive, I suddenly become curious. In the first case I’m angrily thinking, why would they do that? In the second case I’m thinking, yeah, why would they do that? Subtle, but significant.
Curiosity changes things. It turns attacks into questions. What’s going on for this person? Can I ask them? What’s the best way to approach it? Do they have any idea how their actions impact me? What if I gave them the benefit of the doubt and set out to discover their good reasons for what they do?
Conversations like this can be amazingly enlightening. You may not like their reasons, but at least you’ll understand them better and have a foundation for making things better. What I’ve discovered is that people are not often actively trying to make my life miserable or even aware that their behavior seems rude. I’ve also learned that my own actions are frequently playing a role; that their actions aren’t occurring in a vacuum but in relation to how I’m interacting with them. Astonishingly, if I’m willing to take a close look, I’ll often see how I’m not paying enough attention to the effect my actions are having on them! I can be blithely unaware of how my own behavior seems rude!
Somewhere in here is the key to relationships that don’t fall apart, happy work environments, and world peace! Starting with curiosity, wondering what the good reasons are for another’s behavior. Looking to see how you’re contributing to any unpleasantness in the situation. Being willing to discuss it all openly and make changes.
Of course, some people are doing bad things for bad reasons. And very often they get away with it — greed, bigotry, racism, discrimination, unsustainable destruction of our planet’s resources. We feel helpless to do anything about forces that seem so much greater than us, but we are not helpless. These evil powers can only survive in a society distracted by the chaos of disunity. As those of us with generally good intentions work, person by person, to develop understanding and cooperation with those around us, we are building unity.
Enough unity, and the good-reasoned majority will be able to stand together against the bad-reasoned minority.
So, that generally decent person who’s currently making you crazy? What do you suppose the good reason is behind their behavior?