Part of me is as cynical as the average person, and another part of me really sees “the good” in others. I have come to believe that, but for very rare exceptions, most people have positive intentions and believe that they are a good person. So, whenever anyone chooses to act in a particular way or say certain things, at least at that moment, they believe that they are trying to do the “right” thing.
In movies, such as Star Wars, the bad guys wear black and know that they are evil. In the real world, this just isn’t the case. People don’t like to think of themselves as evil or bad. Even people who do absolutely horrible things by most standards usually think they have good reasons for what they are doing.
Embezzling money? “Hey, don’t I deserve it? The company owes me for it big-time – look at all of the great work that I’ve done that hasn’t gotten proper recognition. AND it’s better than giving it to Uncle Sam and getting squandered in ways that I detest.”
Got into a fight? “Look at what that bozo said! He needed to be shut up!”
Giving your spouse an earful? “I needed to set the record straight. She needed to know how I really felt and how wrong she was.”
In a similar vein, people who do idiotic things don’t believe, at least at the time, what they were doing was idiotic at all. If they did, why on earth would they be doing it? Rarely if ever would a person go into a situation and think to themselves, “I know this is an absolutely stupid thing to do, BUT I’m going to do it anyway!”
I know this applies to me. I have done many insipid and misguided things in my life, but in pretty much every case, at the time, I had “good reasons” for my actions. If you reflect upon your life, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion.
If this is the case, then this gives us some critical information about how to approach others. Assume that the other person is a smart and good person who is trying to do the right thing. You are much more likely to get a better response from that person if you take this approach than from coming at them as if they were a “bad” person or an imbecile. Have you ever been approached that way by someone? How well did you like that approach? Not too much, I’ll wager!
And remember, sometimes the “idiotic” action that we later come to regret is in correcting someone else who we think is making an idiotic action!
Other people are much like ourselves – we are all trying to do the right thing, but sometimes these right things turn out to be the wrong things. By approaching others with sensitivity, tolerance, and compassion, we are much more likely to resolve our differences in a positive manner.