People say I’m naive. I think it’s a misnomer. You see, technically, I just live in a different world than they do. Now, generally, I don’t like to toot my own horn (at least not in such an obvious way; usually it’s at least cloaked in false modesty…), but in order to rebut the nay-sayers, I’m going to take a minute to explain three things that I do per habit that change my little world to be just a little more “naive” and a little less, well, awful than theirs.
Last week I was driving down 83rd Avenue. I do this almost every day. And, almost every day, some schmuck drives 40 mph in front of me (it’s a 50 mph street. Seriously, people). This time, the person behind me was getting frustrated and started tailing me. Of course they were. They couldn’t see past me to that poor, sad soul in the rundown Honda which looked to have spent its days (and nights) out in the Colorado sun and snow for longer than it should have. They couldn’t see the person looking down then up then down then up, clearly looking for the right street to turn down. They might not have even known that several of these side streets were new and poorly lit, making it hard for anyone turning down them to know quite when to slow (not that it much mattered with the speed this guy was going anyway, but I digress…). Eventually, this little phenomenon turned into the guy behind me not knowing that when I abruptly stomped on the brakes it was because Mr. Schmuck had abruptly stomped on Poor Sad Honda’s brakes in order to take a turn (which he, on second thought, decided not to take) right in front of me.
Unfortunately for me, Angry Not-Brake-Checked Man behind me DID turn off, so he likely never knew about Poor Sad Honda Man or, thus, my excuse for the not-brake-checking incident.
Now, here’s where you think this is a post about perspective and never knowing what someone’s going through and being nice. But it’s more than that. You see, it’s true that we don’t know what others are going through, and it’s true that we tend to look at everything through our own perspective. But that’s kinda the point. Our own perspectives are good; they just need to be examined with a little less bias, a little more self-awareness, and a little more self-projection.
The habits? To the tune of my own horn:
Habit one: I very often pause to think about how my actions might be interpreted by others.
Habit two: I introspect about times when I may have misjudged someone else’s intentions, just as mine might be misjudged.
Habit three: I give others the benefit of my newfound (or newly revitalized) doubt.
For instance, my thought process when the guy started tailing me: He probably thinks I’m a freaking a-hole. But I’m not. Have I ever done other things like this that people probably thought I did on purpose? Have other people ever done other things like this to me that I thought were on purpose?
I mean, in this kind of situation I would likely have no more evidence that the person in front of me was purposely brake checking me than I would that they were responding to a completely different situation such as a missed turn, or a seemingly suicidal squirrel, or an overly jumpy passenger who sees shadows and dives for the oh-shit bar while frantically gasping for air (this last one is definitely *not* a personal anecdote…).
When someone does lame-o stuff to you, do you stop and think about what others might have thought about your intentions had you done the same thing to them? Could you be misjudging the lame-ness of this stuff they’re doing “to” you?
Ever been cut off in traffic and immediately started in on a tyrannical inner dialogue about how this idiot must think his schedule is way more important than your safety and how he should think about all the innocent children helplessly straight-jacketed to their “safety” seats in these hurling death boxes on wheels? Stop. Remember the times you’ve done these things on accident to others. Remember. Doubt your ability to read minds. This is a good thing to doubt, since, technically, you actually can’t read minds (sorry). Give everyone else the same benefit of the doubt as you would give yourself.
Whatever the other possibilities, the introspection is what matters. Have you been that intermediary, leaving other people in the light of the brakes to wonder at your ill-willed intentions? When you misjudge your timing and cut someone off, do you recall the times when others cut you off and give them the benefit of the doubt that you know you deserve in your own situation? When you meet up with your sig other in a line, do you realize the person behind you might not have seen that welcome kiss, and might, instead, just have though you were a jerk face line cutter? Have you ever made someone the unwitting victim of your resting bitch face? Do you stop to realize that maybe they interpret this as a pointed and purposeful scowl rather than your unfortunate from-birth situation?
Certainly there are times when people are real life, genuine-leather, honest-to-goodness pricks. But if you don’t know this for sure (and most of the time you don’t), then what is your motive for concluding in favor of animosity?
This is a trial, and your life perspective is in the defendant’s chair. You get the evidence, and you get to decide how to weigh it; you get to decide whether to conclude that people in life are generally a-holes or that they’re generally good and kind.
So am I naive? I’m pretty sure I just live with an equally-plausible (but happier) verdict than the nay-sayers do.