Thinking of Other People as People

It is easy to forget some of the most basic and crucial perspectives. That there are people in this world other than us, and that these people are not just characters in our own lives but protagonists of their own. I have been thinking about this for a while now, after sitting at a family dinner, and for one of the first times, filtering what I said.

Take a 3rd grade math problem, for example.

Johnny has 3 apples. His friends, Emma and Alex, would like to eat an apple with Johnny. What number can Johnny divide by, resulting in his own keep of the apples (the rest for his friends), to make Emma and Alex happy?

The answer is obviously 3, and not 1. We all know that, and could solve this problem at any time of any day. But the fundamental knowledge that gives us this answer may not necessarily exist at the level of our own conscious understanding. Rather it often seems to be the case that this knowledge exists in a part of our brain that is less activated and rarely used. We can answer the question, but we might not be able to apply the philosophical foundations of the answer to our everyday lives.

Johnny should give two of his apples to his friends Emma and Alex, this we know.

But why exactly?

We may know why deep down inside, but we often don’t pay attention to it.

Emma and Alex, just like every other person in the world, are living, thinking, and conscious human beings who experience the world through their own eyes, and often in ways similar ourselves. They hold their own interests, habits, desires, pains, sensitivities, and at times maybe even irrational tendencies just as ourselves. They navigate the world through their own lens, and interact with others just as we interact with them.

And so it follows, that the people they interact with (who may include ourselves) have the power to influence their moods, their beliefs, and their overall experiences.

How many times have you felt a disposition towards someone, had the need to say something negative to someone, or experienced a state in which you behaved out of a bad mood or an interpersonal agenda? Unless you’re a superhuman, this sort of thing likely even takes place with your family and friends. And often even more likely than with strangers or acquaintances, since the people you feel comfortable around don’t demand the same positive or supportive energy as do people you just met, are still getting to know, and want to see the best sides of you.

Which is ridiculous to say the least, because our family and friends deserve our entire ability to offer support, show compassion, and give attention, because we love them and they love us. We know this. I have no doubt in my mind about that. But knowing doesn’t always translate into practicing.

What I’m talking about is that cloud of frustration. That feeling of discomfort. Or that unconscious belief that these people are different than you, and are doing something wrong for some reason that you don’t see fit. The feeling that interrupts your ability to enjoy yourself and enjoy that person. The feeling that begins to cloud your experience and alter your behavior. The feeling that eventually interrupts that person from enjoying themselves, before you can even consider who they are and what they mean to you.

What I’m talking about is the bullshit that makes us say terrible things to the people we love. Or do things that aren’t terrible at all, but eventually push people away. The bullshit that can make a happy person no longer happy. The stuff that can make a sunny day seem like a cloudy one.

And what I’m saying is to stop. Stop making other people feel bad, and stop seeing the world from a dominating lens. Because we all do it, and it downright sucks.

We need to stop calling people out for something we think they did wrong, or a flaw we think they should get rid of. I’m sure as hell we’ve all experienced the other end of it, and it’s not fun. Unless it is built into a constructive conversation, forget about it. Because directing our attention to that bullshit only interrupts our experience, and directly or indirectly attacking them for it only further prevents them from feeling happy, comfortable, or loved: the three things we should wish for other people to feel.

Our friends and family, strangers we naturally encounter every day, people we believe and hope are there to support us instead of stand against us. Help them feel well, show them the world is good, and give them the love they deserve. Because unless we enjoy feeling uneasy, uncomfortable, inadequate, or put down, we should want other people to hold the same compassion towards ourselves.

Now, what I believe is beautiful about this is that it can be easier than you think. To recognize someone’s self worth, being, and personal experience really just derives from a mental trigger. It is double checking ourselves when we feel that disposition. To stop ourselves from saying something or recognizing we’re behaving in a certain way, and choosing to think about whoever we’re around as their own, complex people.

Think about their vision: you, the chair you’re sitting on, what’s behind you. Think about their experience: what you say, the way you act, how this shows your feelings towards them, how this shows your beliefs about them. Think about their own thoughts, ideals, moods, and desires. The desire to be well and to be loved, to be respected by you and by others.

And then show them that you love them, want them to be happy, and wish them to feel comfortable. Everything you would want them to want for you. Think about them and behave towards them as you would want them to think and behave towards you.

Respect them. Because they are their own selves. Not just characters defined by our own personal beliefs or observations.

Think about other people as people.

It is a step forward towards enjoying our relationships more, and helping others enjoy themselves.

And the more we manage to do this, the closer we get to making it a habit that takes place of the alternative dysfunction. Or better known as the bullshit that never made anyone happy.

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Moments made of people and places, brilliant and ordinary. ↹ Planet Earth, Milky Way

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