I know that I'm more self centered than I should be. It's something I work on, not by instructing myself to be less self centered, which is too foggy a command to actually obey, but through specifically defined efforts. One of the more useful ones I've come up with is to stop and think about what experience the other person wants to have.
Maybe for everyone besides me this is an obvious social skill that happens automatically. I've found for me, though, that usually I'm just on autopilot when interacting with others. If anything I think about the experience that I want to have.
Let's say I'm arguing with a friend about something trivial, maybe the best method to book a plane ticket. He has his way, I have mine. If I'm on autopilot, my goal is probably to win the argument. Sounds petty, but I think it's true for a lot of us. If we're in an argument, we try to win. If I think about the experience my friend wants to have, though, that description probably doesn't include losing an argument to me. In fact, it probably doesn't include having an argument at all.
So why is he engaging in an argument that he doesn't want to have? Maybe he figured out a cool trick for booking flights and wants to share it with me, but my pride is preventing me from listening. Maybe he sees me as an authority on travel and wants me to respect his own abilities in that area. Maybe other topics I've been bringing up have been boring and he'd rather be an active participant in an argument than a passive listener of something boring.
If I don't think about the experience my friend wants to have, these possibilities never come up. I just focus on winning the argument, which isn't a positive experience for either of us. Using context and my knowledge of the friend, I can probably figure out exactly what experience he wants to have, and then move towards that experience.
That doesn't mean that I just concede the argument, because that's probably not the experience either of us want. Instead I can ask more about his method to see if I'm missing something, recognize his skill in something related, or "agree to disagree" and change the topic.
It's worth noticing that by taking any of these actions, I'm making things primarily better for my friend, but also better for me. Neither of us want to argue, but only by thinking about the experience he wants to have can I improve things.
This concept extends far beyond arguments and conversations. If I really want to go to a particular restaurant, but I know that a friend would feel more comfortable going somewhere less expensive, I think about the experience they want and agree to their restaurant. If I want to write about something that we did, but they don't want the exposure, I write about something else. If we're traveling and they want to go at a slower pace than I do, I agree.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how my long term goals are very important, but that my short term desires are much less important than they feel. Winning a little argument with a friend might feel good, but it's completely irrelevant to my life. On the other hand, having a good friendship is very important. Couple those facts together, and sacrificing petty desires for the sake of my friend becomes the obvious choice.
This process isn't about becoming a pushover. It's about being empathetic and honing the ability to assess the importance of each desire and goal you have. If I can give a friend, or even a stranger, the experience they want by sacrificing petty pleasures, I think that's a worthwhile trade. Making those sacrifices builds strength of character. On the other hand, it's never going to be worth sacrificing an important goal for an ephemeral experience someone else wants. The skill is in knowing which is which.
If you've ever been in a conversation that just feels frustrating for no clear reason, there's a good chance neither of you was getting the experience you wanted. The same goes for when you and a friend are working on a project together and small conflicts are slowing progress. Relationships where there's a lot of arguing about nothing fall under the same umbrella. You may have have played equal parts in creating the situation, but if you're the one who can think about what experience the other person is looking for, it's worth taking responsibility and giving them that experience.
I got a Withings Scale that monitors air quality as well. Was surprised to find that there was too much CO2 in the RV. I bought one medium sized Snake Plant and readings have been in the good range since then. Amazing!
This seems like sound advice, but I would be cautious about trying to think about what other people like or what other people are thinking. I used to try to do what you're advocating, but I would often come to the wrong conclusions.
One example comes when I tried to organize a trip to a waterpark. People signed up, but not a single one attended. At first, I thought the people were just rude, but then I tried the "what would the other person be thinking" approach to try to understand how it was possible that everyone would decide not to show up. The answer I came to was that the waterpark was too far away, and people didn't want to drive the two hours to get there.
Later, I confronted two of the people who stood me up and I asked why nobody attended. It turns out that they were scared that, after they put their bathing suits on, people would think they were too fat. This is a way of thinking that had never occurred to me, and furthermore, even when I tried to imagine that I was those people, I still could not imagine myself having that thought at all, let alone standing up someone because of it.
My theory, for what it's worth, is that people have lots of underlying assumptions that they never tell anyone about, and which they live their lives around. They might not even know they have these assumptions, never having had any different experiences. Perhaps the people who thought they were fat were picked on in high school for being fat, and never saw a psychologist to overcome it. Or, perhaps another person might have lived his or her life in poverty, and so makes his or her decisions based solely upon cost. When I tried to imagine myself in their circumstances, I quickly learned that there was no way I could possibly figure out all of the underlying assumptions that those people were operating under. Even if I tried, my guesses were usually wrong and led to offensive comments, because I overlooked something that, to the other person, seemed completely obvious.
Instead, I've found is that it is better to develop a set of moral guidelines and to treat people the way that is morally or ethically right. If someone starts telling me a story, I spend 80% of my time listening and only 20% talking, because talking more than the other person in this situation makes it seem as if I am more important than he or she is. If someone is arguing with me, I try to figure out whether the other person has a valid objection, or whether I need to continue the argument because something important is being missed. If someone does something nice for me, I go out of my way to do something nice in return. In these cases, I'm using logic and reasoning to determine the best behavior, rather than trying to infer the other person's thoughts, which is impossible and often dangerous.
Hi Tynan, I'm interested in reading about how you've recently accrued so many frequent flyer miles. It's something that I've been planning on getting into soon!
This is similar to the review I do in my head when I find myself getting angry or frustrated with someone. I ask myself whether I actually need to be upset by this or do I just want to be right.
Often I find I don't need to cling to being in that negative frame of mind. I can just release it.
And the really really cool thing is it is a habit I've built that has become so easy. I'm really able to let go of stuff and just move onto being in the state I want to be in.
Btw, I love snake plants! I have two in my room, as well as an aloe vera plant and a peace lilly plant. I even wrote an article about how awesome they are :P
First of all, this is a great article, and about a topic that people don't usually talk about. Yes, Kathleen mentioned it is about being considerate, but I think it is so much more than that. It is about emphasizing with an individual and shifting your outlook to match the other person's. This isn't easy. In fact, it's very hard, especially if you are not mindful of it. It was surprising to me that you were, and it makes me realize how insightful you are. However, your outlook isn't the only thing that affects how you relate or connect with a person. Your mood can as well. If you are want to win, you are competitive and aggressive. How do you stop that? You have to stop and think if you gain a lot from being winning an argument. What to feel like a big man? No, not really. I want to be friends and connect with that person and that requires me to be more calm. So chant for five seconds in your head and proceed.
But that hypothetical person in your article is a good person who wants to learn from you. What if the person is an ass? Then it should be more about what you want that experience with that person. You can inflate your body to make yourself bigger and go at him head-to-head, metaphorically speaking.
But, what if that person wants an experience from you that you can't give at all, like a romantic dinner? If you don't feel the same way about her, then you can never give her the experience she wants both of you to have. I have been in that situation, and I'm saddened when I don't feel the same way.
So thinking about the experience the other person wants to have only works on the condition that you can reciprocate those feelings. The other person wants to learn, fine! Let's have fun together. The other person wants to be competitive? Maybe, depends how I'm feeling. No matter what, thinking this way makes you aware of their intentions with you and that's important if you want to learn how you can connect with them. Unfortunately, it doesn't always make the experience happen, but it's a start.
Tynan, i'm a sett customer, and I have sent an e-mail for support about a billing mistake I made. Please, when you have sometime, can you review my e-mail.
Thank you in advance for your time.
I call this approach the "Let the Wookie Win" rule of thumb and it serves shockingly well. And it doesn't usually matter whether you're correct in figuring out what experience the other person wants, it typically results in a better experience for them regardless.
You just described, in great detail and example, how to be considerate -- even though you never used that word. Regardless, with a personality like yours (and mine) you are doing a fine job of taking a look in the mirror. Kudos. :D
I remember reading about the famous marshmallow study, the one where they see if kids can delay gratification or not. Reading about it really haunted me, because a psychologist came to my school in third grade and did a similar experiment on us students. We could have an unspecified "big prize" later, or a small prize immediately. I walked away with silly putty.
As you probably know, the people who delay gratification are more successful, happier, etc. When I found this out, I became determined to be a gratification delayer.
I love thinking about these dichotomies-- you're either X or Y, and if you're Y... maybe you'd better start becoming an X.
A related one that I think is really practical is the split between builders and allocators. I'm not sure those are the exact best words, but I've always been bad at coming up with catchy terms for these things.
Its good to be back, talking to you all again. As many of you know, I had an injury last month, and I was pretty much laid up for all of August. I've emerged, and I'm pretty much back to normal. I've taught a few classes, and built a few websites, and life is getting back on track. A bunch of you called and emailed and visited, and found various ways to be supportive, and I really appreciate it. It was very nice of you, and inpsired me to commit to do the same, if any of my friends should ever suffer a similar fate. Although I hope not. I would certainly prefer if nobody ever got punched in the face ever again, until the time comes that the sun refuses to shine. However, knowing that there will continue to be sickness, old age, and death, there will also continue to be deliveries of juice, and kindness. So it goes, my favorite Vonnegut quote. Which makes me think I should read more Vonnegut, I'm sure he's got a few other gems. Oh, and it just occurred to me that maybe some of you are not aware of my healing adventure, in which case, you can read this blog post by my friend Elise. She captures a day in the life of a guy with a broken face quite well. I'm also working on a short book, which will be release in ebook form, "So You Broke Your Face". Again, I hope it has a very narrow audience. And maybe in the future, I'll email y'all some of the insights that arose from the experience, but not today. Today, I just want to say hi. So, Hi! Oh, and if you want to come to Yin Yoga Teacher Training, a workshop, or have a private yoga lesson, or have me build a website, that would be awesome, because, apparently, hospital bills don't just go away if you ignore them. Thanks, Love you, Daniel P.S. It was recently pointed out to me that me that the signature line in my email has the quote: There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in -Leonard Cohen I am feeling like I've learned that lesson as fully as I care to. I feel like, in this lifetime, I really have enough cracks. My face has just about as much light as I can take. If anyone wants to share some other quotes that maybe will promote a lessons and manifestations that are more pleasant and delightful, I'd love to hear them. OM Om