A while back, my close guy friend started acting uptight and snappy whenever I was around him, so I started wondering what I had done to offend him. Had I said something off? Did he just not like me anymore? So, of course, I did the mature thing and called my mom.
Her advice? She asked me to consider whether he was simply having a rough month. “People are embedded in a complete world of their own,” she told me. “People have their own reasons and stresses for doing things which may be completely unconnected to you—and usually are! Hold your ground if necessary and be confident in yourself, but at the same time forgive others and let their little crazinesses go unpunished. Maybe they actually need your compassion.”
Then, a couple days ago, I read a post about what we can learn from babies. This lesson jumped out:
People are usually tired and scared; not mean. Babies can’t, of course, tell us what is wrong with them. We have to guess—and what’s striking is how generous we are in our interpretation of what is going on…We are constantly aware of just how much the workings of hunger, a tricky digestive tract or a lack of sleep may affect human character. How helpful it would be if we were more often able to apply a similar method of interpretation around adults. How kind we would be if we could look beneath the surface behavior—the unpleasantness, viciousness and desperate grumpiness—and see that what could really be going on is just confusion, fear and exhaustion.
Beautiful, right? Such a good thing to remember. So often we leave interactions wondering, “Why didn’t she laugh at my joke?” “She seemed bored, was I boring?” “He snapped at me, he must not like me,” etc…when, really, they might just be hungry:)
P.S. A trick for worriers.