In many different situations this week, while playing the role of Interested Observer, I’ve been noticing how everyone from young children to older adults has an opinion about what someone else should – or should not – be doing: “She shouldn’t wear that outfit.” “He must be crazy to have that job.” “They don’t care about their house at all – look at that lawn!”
As I listen to these comments, I just can’t help but think “So what?” I mean really, what difference does it make to my life, or my family, or anything that I care about what someone else does in their lives? Of course these were just small incidents such as I’m capturing here; I didn’t have a chance to listen to people engaging in political or religious discussions (maybe people just don’t have those around me anymore!) so I’m not even addressing the BIG judgments and disagreements with others. This is just how often in any given day we have some sort of reaction to what another person chooses for their life.
But let’s think about it for a minute. What kind of world might this be if we didn’t feel like we had to have a running commentary either to ourselves or others about what someone else is choosing, doing or being in their lives? How much more energy might we have to focus on things we do care about?
I can honestly say that after doing this work for so many years, I just don’t understand why people are so interested in others’ lives. I do care a lot about people – and have been called “nosy” by my only sibling more than once because I like to ask questions and become very engaged and interested with others. But I don’t have an opinion about what they do – I just want to learn more about them.
I guess, if I look at my own filter, some of this comes from my desire to keep others from having an opinion about what I do. It’s always been hurtful to me to hear someone say something about me, when often times my belief is that that person really doesn’t have all of the information. And that’s the rub for me: how many times we make assumptions, how many times we form an opinion about someone without really knowing what it is like to be in their shoes. We think we know, we know what we see but we don’t really know enough to proffer a judgment one way or the other.
See if you can catch yourself this week making a commentary to yourself about what other people do. We usually think in terms of “like” and “dislike.” We see someone’s behavior or choices and say “That’s good” or “That’s bad.” Those of you who have read my book, “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets To Human Behavior” know that we do this with our own filters in place, so what is “good” is not perceived as such universally. We each have our own definitions and we apply them to others fairly regularly.
Keep a watch on this, this week. Instead of offering silent, or spoken, opinions about someone else, spend that energy watching your own behavior and interactions. The Interested Observer stays objective and interested. See if you begin to view things a bit differently this week as you do this.