One of my clients has a problem that I think is pretty common, and that is he generally just doesn't quite like people.
Like, ALL people.
I think a lot of people feel this way these days. While you have a few friends etc. that you do like, you might have an overall sense that human beings are disappointing.
From what I’ve seen, this is largely a measurement error. It can come from having standards about people that are so unreasonably high, that if they slip - if they disappoint you or frustrate you even a little bit - you write them off completely. Like they need to score 100% in order to be a “good” person.
But humans are just not that consistent. Even your best friend might cut someone off in traffic, or say something a bit racist, or cheat on their partner.
You can’t hope to connect with and love humans in general if you’re not willing to accept that they are just… human!
But, at the same time, you can’t hope to be confident if you tolerate being disrespected, mistreated, and abused, and your values won’t allow you to befriend people who engage in behaviour you consider to be egregiously bad.
So, how do we maintain boundaries without cutting off everyone?
Well, one thing I’ve noticed is that people who “hate everyone” are usually also weak and inconsistent about setting boundaries, so they build up resentment over unspoken injuries, keeping score without ever addressing it properly.
Rather than keeping a scoreboard that holds people’s failures against them, one thing you can do is judge people based solely on their current behaviour and respond consistently with honesty.
It’s almost like having no memory but also being very honest, immediate and accurate with your feedback at all times.
If you like what they're doing right now, you reward them and allow them into your life. If you don't, there's a consequence and you may push them away temporarily. If they continuously misbehave, the consequences escalate, but they are still rewarded for good behaviour if they change.
If you can just respond to people’s behaviour like that forever, you’ll never overreact to small slips while at the same time you’ll respond assertively to ongoing patterns of harmful behaviour.
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