Friday, September 13, 2019

Expecting Damaged People to Self-Repair to Accommodate You

I'm replaying this golden oldie from August 2017. It offers a dandy example of perceptual reframing from just before I learned to fully frame reframing.


When people treat you poorly, there's a critical question to ask yourself before taking offense: do they treat themselves any better?

A plumber friend vented to me one night. He'd gone to the house of a mutual acquaintance to investigate some emergency in his basement. And the basement was a shocking killing field of cat feces and other random, fetid garbage. It was Silence-of-the-Lambs bad. He cringed as he told the story.

The plumber couldn't fathom how the guy could have expected him to walk through all that. Clean it up first! Grab a broom! Show some consideration! He felt, more than anything, disrespected.

I pointed out that the guy lives there. His kids live there. This is how they live! If he were together enough to clean stuff up and make things nice, his life would be vastly better. You can't expect him to show more consideration, diligence and effort for his plumber than he does for himself and his loved ones!

My plumber friend won't be back, but he immediately dropped his anger.

This flip of perspective doesn't come easily to me, even though I'm more conscious of it than most people. I still have to process every single situation through this filter. And I'm shocked by the frequency. This result is the rule, not an exception.

We're clearly viewing the world with a skewed perspective, not to notice this more. I think it's that we presume - against all evidence! - most people to be essentially reasonable, capable, and competent. So we punish them when their defects impact us, figuring they've lowered their standards out of thoughtless disregard.

An irrational person I know lives a fairly desperate life. When she recently managed to needlessly mess up a situation vitally important to me, I flashed with anger. Why couldn't she be reasonable?!? Well...if she could get out of her own way and be reasonable, she'd have better reasons for doing so than meeting my needs!

It’s unreasonable to expect damaged people to self-repair to accommodate you (and very many people are profoundly damaged, whether they reveal - or even recognize - it or not). Expressed this way it sounds completely self-evident; hardly needing to be stated. But I dare you to actually internalize it over time without heroic effort.


This is all really just an offshoot of Leff's Fourth Law (which, as I later conceded, was expressed way better way earlier by Napoleon).

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Jim I used to say to myself when someone was over the top mean to me "at least I don't have to be him/her" Thanks for reminding me.

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