We love to think that we are all good people at heart. Being compassionate, empathetic and understanding are all concepts we would like to say we embody. Hell, we may even make deliberate sacrifices sometimes. But when it comes to truly appreciating others on a daily basis, we often fall short.
Now, more than ever, “having your shit together” (or merely appearing to) is a form of social currency. We have to be strong, have a plan in place, and be able to form razor-sharp opinions. If we presuppose this to be true, this constant self-promotion required to keep up in today’s society often comes at the expense of others.
Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of absolutely selfless people in the world doing some incredible things to help others. Some of which are literally dedicating their lives in order to do so. I’m also not saying that living a completely selfless life is the way anyone should live, either.
What I am saying however, is when we take a closer look at our day-to-day interactions with other people, there’s a whole lot of judgment present.
“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” — Carl Jung
What the majority of this can be attributed to is a lack of complete understanding. Taking the time to truly get where another person is coming from or find out what they’re dealing with may sound taxing, but I assure you — it pays back ten-fold.
1. Know That Everyone Is Doing The Best They Can With The Resources They Have Available
How often do you get up out of bed and say to yourself, “I’m going to go f*ck everything up today”?
Not very frequently, I’d presume. Neither does anyone else.
People get up and tackle their day with the best of intent. Even if what they do may seem unusual or even kind of messed up, there was a positive motive driving the decision. There is no such thing as bad intent. Even the worst of human beings throughout history thought what they were doing would yield positive benefits. Doesn’t mean we have to endorse everything that everyone does or proclaim it morally sound; it just means that’s their best.
But practically speaking, most people in today’s society just want to do well enough to fly under the radar and not be bothered. Should a person’s performance in a particular situation not meet your standards, it’s important to acknowledge that they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have available at that time.
Could they have made a better decision? Sure.
Is there an opportunity to suggest improvement? No problem.
It’s not to agree with what another person does that’s important; but it’s everything to understand.
2. Determine The Difference Between State and Character
Think back to the last time you had poor service at a restaurant: the wait staff may have been rude, slow or just didn’t seem to want to be there.
Their performance was a result of the particular state they were in.
A person’s “state” is their neurophysiological combination at that time. It’s the sum of what’s being said and pictured in the mind, coupled with the body’s physiological experience (breathing, blood sugar, posture, etc).
There are many enabling states that help us achieve peak performance such as joy, hope, passion, excitement and peace. For each one of those, there’s just as many disabling states that cripple us from accessing the resources that are available to us as human beings.
If we can understand and appreciate that no one is perfect, we may find a better sense of gratitude and patience with the people we interact with. Moreover, when we can acknowledge that we understand where the other person is coming from, the results can be just as powerful as an interaction where both parties are in peak form.
Think of how moving it would be for the waiter or waitress to review the final check after they know they fell short to see a 100% tip and a message stating,
“I’m sorry you’re having a tough day. Hope this helps.”
3. Set Expectations For Yourself, Not For Others
As I referenced in my recent post The Dangers of Attachment, we experience a loss of power or freedom when we are attached to a particular point of view. In short, we refuse to let go of what we feel is the right way of doing things in lieu of compromise, appreciation or a combination of the two.
Many will argue that others set our expectations of them for us. While people may set expectations for themselves and share them with another person (for instance, in a romantic relationship), it’s still up to us whether or not we choose to adopt those expectations of them for ourselves.
The more we put responsibility on another person for our livelihood, the more powerless we become. And ultimately, regardless of how the other person behaves or acts, the only ones letting us down are ourselves.
Incidentally, this process will continue to repeat itself like a vicious circle in every relationship thereafter until we decide to take ownership. As Tony Robbins advises, we must “trade our expectations for appreciation”.
If we reference back to the first point in the article and accept that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got at the time, we’ll experience dramatic shifts in how we view others.
If our partner comes home later than expected, they’ll walk in the door to a then-relieved sense of concern rather than distrusting accusations.
Most people will be so thankful for not being attacked in that moment, they will then feel compelled to take responsibility for not honoring their word and correct their behavior moving forward.
Is this a “strategy” to get ahead in your relationship? Absolutely not.
For you to feel truly free, you must experience this at your core. Your heart and your gut must work together to create the appropriate mental and emotional environment in which you thrive.
Will this always work? Of course not. But the likelihood of success in this arena is far greater than any potential risk floating in the ether.
4. Accept That Everyone’s Journey To Maturity Happens At A Different Pace
Common knowledge suggests that a person’s journey to a fulfilling life involves a maturation process. In Western civilization, our primary means of maturation (apart from existential growing pains) is based on fulfilling an educational curriculum. With an average person spending 15–20 years in school to become successful in life, one could suggest that to grow in maturity is to grow in thinking.
Spiral Dynamics is an elaboration of a psychological approach proposed by Clare W. Graves (1914–1986) that provides a framework to better understand the way in which human beings think.
As we are born, our needs and desires are purely on a means of survival, similar to what Abraham Maslow suggests in his Hierarchy of Needs. Food, shelter and warmth are at the top of the list with not much else following it.
As we grow and develop in our character, our thinking follows along with it. Where we used to put others down as the school bully in order to fully express ourselves (Level 3 — Impulse), we may experience having grown to abdicating what we want for ourselves in order to appease others (Level 4 — Rules).
Once we determine that we want more purpose for ourselves, we may elevate to a level where we choose something to do something more meaningful with our lives, despite the fact that the path may not encompass what we actually want to be spending our time doing (Level 5 — Success).
If you are still reading this article to this point, you’re likely already at or are ready to elevate to the level of Human Relations (6). This is an area of thinking where we look to better understand ourselves by way of relating to other people.
Whatever level a person is at, that’s merely the level they are currently on. We all had to experience the same journey throughout our maturation process and many of us are far from complete. Just because another person may grow in their thinking at a slower rate than you, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same level of respect and appreciation you would want for yourself during that growth period.
5. Find Yourself In Others As Often As You Can
If you own a car, odds are, you’ve been cut off while driving a time or two.
If you own a car, odds are, you’ve cut someone off while driving a time or two.
To better appreciate and understand human beings, we have to find some version of ourselves in everyone we come in contact with. Connection is one of the most sought after experiences that human beings can feel and there’s no way that’s possible without finding yourself in another.
All great relationships begin with some form of commonality. The commonality in the subject is not what brings people together; the commonality in the “self” is what sets the table for lasting connection.
With one-on-one conversations, this is very likely to be achieved with optimal listening and strong eye contact. The eyes truly tell a story about the humanity of another person. With practice, it’s not far-fetched to clearly see the hopes and dreams of another by simply looking into their eyes.
“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” — St. Jerome
If face-to-face conversation is off the table, noticing traits or ways of being via body language are bound to produce some level of relation.
Whether what you see is awkwardness, discomfort, arrogance or embellishing, there’s a good chance that you’ve displayed or embodied that once before. Owning this about ourselves in the moment keeps us grounded in our own judgment before passing it along onto another.
6. Learn The Greatest Human Need of All
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” — Anonymous
We work incredibly hard to get an edge in life, don’t we? We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars getting an education that will set us up for success. We read books and watch shows on how to become more attractive. We’re constantly asking others for their opinion on if what we’re doing is the best possible course of action for us (particularly in social settings).
Yet, we often forget that we have all the power we could ever want in our hands right this very moment.
Yes, we have the ability to show appreciation for others. When we truly APPRECIATE people, the relationships with those people grow in value.
This cannot be done halfheartedly or simply “going through the motions”. Appreciation must be expressed from our deepest level of consciousness. Nothing less than complete and utter authenticity will suffice. Otherwise, diminishing returns are to follow.
Think about some of your proudest moments: as much as we hate to admit, many of them revolved around us being recognized for our efforts. We were given the praise for something we tried our best at. Despite a number of different reasons we embarked on the particular journey, the best payoff was the appreciation we received for the sacrifices we made. On a fundamental level, this is arguably what human beings long for the most.
Life is relationships. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“The primary joy of life is acceptance, approval, the sense of appreciation and companionship in our human comrades. Many men do not understand that the need for fellowship is really as deep as the need for food, and so they go through life accepting many substitutes for genuine, warm, simple relatedness.”
— Joshua L. Liebman
Which of these six things are you already doing?
Which of these six things do you know you need to work on?
What people do you need to “clean up” with as a result of having read this?
Be bold. Be daring. Be great.