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Treat others with kindness and respect

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If you have exacting intellectual or ethical standards from the people around you, you are bound to often be disappointed in what you see. This can cause you to develop a cynical disrespect of the people around you, leading you to behave rudely with, or feel frustrated interacting with, the majority of people around you. This page has some thoughts on overcoming the problem.

Appreciate the humanity of the people around you

The people around you, including the ones who behave badly, are humans with feelings. They deserve empathy. This doesn't mean you should respect their individual bad actions. It doesn't mean you should refrain from criticism if they do something unethical or harmful. It does, however, mean that their interests and feelings should be among the considerations you have when interacting with them.

Develop respect for the challenges that others are facing

Think a little more about the circumstances that people are coming from. It's possible, of course, that if you explore deeper, you'll have even less respect for their actions, though it's more likely you'll find their actions somewhat more justifiable. Either way, it's more likely that you'll be able to get to peace more easily if you understand where they're coming from, and may be less likely to take it as a personal indictment or vendetta.

Examples:

  • In some cases, they have challenging lives at home, and might "take it out" in school or the workplace where you interact with them. This is not good behavior on their part, but you can at least be reassured that their mistreatment of you isn't based on a personal vendetta, and that they are in a tough situation themselves.
  • In some cases, the job is genuinely more challenging than it looks. You may initially be angry at your school teacher for being dismissive of your intellectual ability and the effort you put into projects. But it might be very difficult for a teacher dealing with a class of over 20 students to offer students individual attention, and they might also be out of their depth knowledge-wise to handle unusual students. This is neither your fault nor theirs.
  • In some cases, there is hidden wisdom behind the person's actions. Perhaps the teacher who's giving you what seems like a useless worksheet really is right about how doing that worksheet will help you develop valuable skills.
  • In some cases, the person made a genuine, one-time mistake.
  • In some cases, the person is petty and evil. Knowing this, don't take it personally.

Understand that people who underperform by some standards may still have a lot to contribute

If your high school chemistry teacher has trouble with adding fractions, you may lose respect for the teacher's academic ability, and choose not to listen to the teacher. This may or may not be a wise choice. It is generally better to give people a bit more of a chance to showcase their different areas of strength. In particular:

  • Many people who are not quick thinkers are often more knowledgeable about their domain than you are, and you can still learn a lot from them specific to the domain. For instance, your high school chemistry teacher may be bad at manipulating fractions, but pretty good with chemistry. By developing a negative attitude to people who aren't in your intellectual league, you may fail to learn from them in the areas that they are knowledgeable.
  • Even people who don't have much abstract book knowledge might have context-specific local knowledge, just by virtue of who they are. This becomes important outside academic contexts. Your not-so-smart neighbor might be able to fill you in on what kinds of groceries are available in what shops, what day the trash collectors come, whether the city trains run on time, or who's who in city politics. People who have gone through specific diseases or physical conditions have unique insight into the experience of having such conditions. Certainly, some aspects of this local knowledge have been transformed into abstract knowledge with the advent of huge knowledge bases on the Internet (with sources such as Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora), but the transformation is far from complete. In any case, even availing of the information via the Internet requires being able to glean knowledge from people who may not be that impressive. For instance, a factually insightful answer on Quora may use terrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

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