Hump Day Crush: Why should I care what they think?

After some discussion spurred by last week’s musings on getting outside of yourself, a friend of mine asked “But why should I care what other people think of me?”

A valid question. After all, we do want to focus on being ourselves and we do want to do so with as few restrictions as possible. That’s part of the whole “self-actualization” thing people talk about, right? Being able to do what you want, when you want, without worrying about what others think.

Well, yes… and no.

There are three main reasons to give a damn about what others think of you. Each of them can be taken to one extreme or another and quickly become Very Bad Things. Such is the case with any bit of personal development–even that independent attitude that’s popular to cultivate. Taken too far, that just leaves you aloof, cold and, at times, caustic. (Trust me, I’ve been there… no one leaves that party happy.)

Reason One: People can see things about you that you can’t. This is the whole Johari Window idea. The simple fact is, we’re too close to ourselves to see everything about us. Other people have different perspectives and can, if we’re willing to listen, help us reduce the size of that “hidden from us” area. The more we know about ourselves, the better we are to control our actions and predict our reactions.  Yes, those hidden bits can be discovered by yourself… but it’s a whole lot easier to do it with help.

Reason Two: Inevitably, you’re going to need something from those other people you don’t want to listen to. It may be some little bit of esoteric information that they have direct access to, it may be something more important–like a kidney or recommendation for a new job. If you’ve spent your time going about your business like nothing they think or do matters (unless it annoys you), you’re going to have a damn hard time getting anything from them. At least not without making some pretty huge sacrifices of your own. Better to lay a pleasant groundwork early on, learn how they think and why they do what they do. The benefit is twofold: they relate to you as a person, perhaps even a friend, and you may accidentally learn something useful about yourself and the world around you.

Reason Three: Life sucks enough without people going out of their way to make it worse. The simple fact is people like to be recognied for what they do, what they think and who they are. If you don’t do that, it’s often taken as an insult–a personal dig against their worth as people. Some will respond with active attacks against you. Others will be more passive-aggressive about it. Way too few will take the high road and just roll with it. Making someone’ s day worse–actively or passively–will eventually make your own situation worse. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually.

The bottom line is this: Care about what they say because they’re taking the time and making the effort to say it. They think it’s important. Allow them that. Sometimes, they’re right.

And that may be just what you need.

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