Empathize with Others’ Reality Before You Judge Them How to build stronger relationships by reframing your point of view

“My world would be a quite perfect place… if other people would just stop messing it up.” – Unknown

I think we can relate to this quote. 😂

How often don’t we get frustrated with other people? Our friends jump in with advice instead of just listening. Our parents nag us about chores but never ask us what we want. Our children are lazy and never appreciate all the work we do for them. Our bosses fail to give us clear instructions and then get irritated because we can’t mind-read. Our spouse voluntarily cleans the house way more than is needed and then complains about how unfair it is that they must always do all the work. Etc…

You probably have a lot more items you could add to this list. 😉

So let’s discuss this. Why are people so darn frustrating? 

I think the best place to start is with ourselves. Why can’t more people just be like us? And by ‘like us’, I of course mean:

  • Always thinking of others first. 
  • Always saying clearly what’s on our minds so others won’t have to guess.
  • Always giving others a compelling reason to do what we ask of them.
  • Never taking on so much work that we let priorities slip.
  • Never criticizing others before we look in the mirror. 
  • Never judging others before we think about the situation from their perspective.

Ok, so perhaps we aren’t as perfect ourselves as we would like to believe. But we aren’t actively trying to make life difficult for others. 

And that’s the point – neither is anyone else trying to make life difficult for you. 

We are all busy people with too much to do, so we unintentionally let things slip.
We are all individuals with blind spots, so we accidentally hurt others without even realizing it.
We are all human beings who crave to be loved, so we are afraid to admit when we don’t have everything under control for fear of looking weak and unlovable. 

Judging comes naturally because it’s so easy. Instead of seeking to understand the situation from the other’s point of view, we can chalk up their behavior to them just being “lazy” or “selfish”. Instead of acknowledging that we might have contributed to the problem, we can simply heap all the blame on someone else. But let’s ask ourselves this question: 

 

“How has judging made my life better?”

 

When I thought about this myself, I couldn’t come up with a single good answer. 

When I judged my professor as “disorganized” for giving us unclear instructions, was I doing anything to solve the problem? – No.

When I judged the cashier as “unkind” because he treated me like I was a nuisance to him, did that make me feel happier? – No.

When I judged myself for “wasting time” if I wasn’t uberproductive all day, did that make my life any better? – No, no, and no. 

Judging had never done anything to improve my life. In fact, it has only made it worse by making me feel more like a victim, less inclined to do something about my problems, and making me damage my relationships. 

 

So how can we escape our internal judgers? The ultimate antidote that has worked for me is…  empathizing

 

Empathizing simply means being willing to understand the world from the other person’s reality. When I now notice myself slipping into “judger-mode”, I

  1. stop and remind me that these thoughts don’t serve me, 
  2. empathize by reframing the situation from the other person’s point of view. 

Here are some examples of what reframing might look like.

Professor frustrated with her students:

Judging: “My students are just lazy. They try to scape by on minimal show no interest in the subject.”
Reframe: Huh, why would they care about my subject? Have I given them any reason to be excited about it?”

Student frustrated with their professor:

Judging: “This class is so boring. What’s the point of it all?”
Reframe: “Wow… how painful it must be to spend hours preparing a class and then have no one listen to you. I should treat my professor with more respect.”

Parent frustrated with their child:

Judging: “Why do I have to remind them to do their homework every time?”
Reframe:Wait… have I ever asked them how they feel about their homework? All I do is just nag at them. Is this the parent I want to be?”

Child frustrated with their parent:

Judging:All my mom says to me is ‘do this’ and ‘do that’. She never listens.”
Reframe: “Wow… my mom works all day at the office, and then works all evening at home to take care of us. She’s just nagging at us because she is overwhelmed and needs help.” 

When you feel frustrated with someone – slow down. Remind yourself that these judger-thoughts don’t serve you. Then, try to empathize by reframing the same situation from other person’s reality. 

What you discover will likely surprise you!

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