Picking on People

I haven’t asked too many people if they’re like me, so here goes… Do you find that you’re constantly picking on people inside your own head? She was rude. He was arrogant. She shouldn’t have done that. He should’ve thought it through.

I assume this judging or picking on people is not unique to me. In fact, I assume people pick on me all the time… inside their own head. I grew up doing it, and my early friendships encouraged it. Then, as I matured, I realized, if I’m listening to someone gossip about someone else, what are they saying about me behind my back? If I’m feeling angry or frustrated at someone, how are they feeling about me? What am I doing to perpetuate these bad feelings?

These realizations were all well and good, a natural part of growing up, I imagine.

Why can’t we all just get along?

I used to think we could all eventually like each other. It was a younger and more naïve time. I don’t believe we’ll like everyone all the time, but I do believe we can respect each other. It’s the little decisions all day long that build a relationship. From the way we answer a question to the way we greet someone in the hallway.

In the book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky, he and his colleagues in brain research have determined that we make snap decisions about people. Our opinion of someone forms in microseconds.

The next book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, by Vanessa Van Edwards, explains that we really only have about five minutes to form an impression with someone new. We base our decisions on our own preconceived stereotypes.

My opinion of someone is usually harder to quantify than the golden rule. Sure, treat others as they would like to be treated sounds nice. But when they’re rude or overly nice or scheming to get something, I can return the behavior? Um… Human relationships are complex.

These snap decisions cause micro-actions in us, as we interact with people. Micro-actions seem to be a hot new topic in how they relate to relationships. Slight (micro) negative or positive expressions and actions that reveal a person’s opinion about you.

Micro-negatives include eye rolls, sneers breaking eye contact too soon or holding it aggressively. Micro-positives include nodding in agreement or smiling more. I’ve micro-actions way more now that I’m looking for them. They are difficult to catch because they happen in less than a second. On the surface, the person hasn’t done anything wrong, necessarily. But it’s those small interactions that set the tone for the relationship and undermine or build trust.

People rub us the wrong way. We perceive some slight and hold a grudge. They communicate in a way we don’t appreciate.

We meet someone for the first time and fall in deep like. They see the world the same way we do. We both care about similar things. They look or act a certain way that we’re drawn to.

Some people are waiting for others to ask more about them. Others don’t want to share unless they themselves initiate. Some people like other around for support during difficult times. Others want to be left alone. Again, human relationships are hard.

These little interactions set the tone for the environment, which either builds up relationships or tears them apart, one micro-action at a time. So next time you catch yourself holding a grudge for some unknown reason, pay attention to the micro-actions. Is someone briefly showing they don’t like you by a half a second eye roll?

If you have personal growth as a goal or hobby, pay attention to your micro-actions. You might be giving people the wrong impression. And be careful, once you start observing, you might over-observe. Not all micro-negative are directed against you, sometimes they’re about something you didn’t even do and you’re just collateral damage.

The best we can do is improve ourselves and be the light or the change. Which is basically the hardest task.



Memories of the Beach Watercolor Painting
Memories of the Beach Watercolor Painting


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