PEOPLE CAN BE A BIG SOURCE of anxiety.
Dealing with people. Problems with people. Worrying about what
people will think. Conflicts with people. Trying to get a date.
Trying to share something personal with someone close to you.
And on and on. Lot's of potential ways you can have trouble with
people, but there is one aspect of people that creates the most
difficulty. It is that people want to be right.
You, me, everybody you have ever met or
will ever meet we all want to be right. More than that,
we feel we need to be right. We need to feel justified.
We need to feel that our ideas, our country, our beliefs, our
religion, our way of life, is right, is better than any other,
or that we are justified and right for being the way we are.
This need is the main source of evil in
the world. It is a need driven by the depths of our survival
instincts. We are a species that identifies. We don't just relate
to our fellow human beings, we identify with certain people:
Our family, and, in our long evolutionary history, with our group.
But now we have the ability to make symbols
and use language, and the same instinct that makes us fight to
defend our group, our children, our mates from attack and our
territory from invasion, makes us fight to defend our beliefs
too. We have strong feelings defending nothing more than our
ideas. We don't fight physically, usually. It isn't a
physical invasion we're dealing with. But we fight just
the same, and we have feelings similar to the upset, anger, and
anxiety we feel when our territory or kin are being trespassed
It is a biological instinct that helped
our ancestors survive. As we evolved into social animals, the
impulse to protect our children, our mates, our group, was selected
for. It is a strong desire to protect and defend our group and
whatever else we identify with.
But then we became proficient at creating
symbols, and all hell broke loose. With the intense compulsion
to protect anything with which we identify, and with the ability
to create symbols ideas with which we can
identify, we now have the impulse to protect our ideas, our beliefs,
our self-image, our personal pride, with as much intensity as
we would protect our children from an attacker.
Our ability to make symbols made an originally
excellent adaptation (desire to protect the group) into a source
of trouble: We identify with ideas and then try to protect them.
To defend them. To be right about them.
This desire to be right causes the worst
problems people have with each other.
This insight is important on a large scale
(international relations, for example) but let's bring it down
to you, personally. Your relationships are the most important
factor in your life. The quality of your relationships greatly
effects your health and financial well being, and your happiness.
Your relationships are the most meaningful things in your life.
When people come to the end of their lives, concern for everything
even slightly petty drops away, and at those moments, the one
thing people most universally and consistently care about is
the people they love.
The craving to be right is the main thing
that gets in the way of good human relations. Like the mad rush
of an avalanche, the "right-instinct" can wash away
years of goodwill in a matter of minutes. It can separate people
like nothing else in this world.
The ability to handle that one aspect of
people is The Way
the way to peace and harmony in the world
because it is the way to bring out the best in people. Or, more
accurately, it is the way to keep the right-instinct from suppressing
the best in people.
There's no way you can avoid dealing with
the human craving to be right. And it has a tremendous, almost
overwhelming influence on your personal life.
What is the best way to interact with this
protective and defensive impulse coded in our DNA? What is the
secret to dealing with the right-instinct successfully?
You can read the answer in one of the oldest
(and shortest) books of the human race: Tao Te Ching. Or you can read about it in
one of the bestselling books of all time: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Reading these books is easy. But practicing
the principles of good human relations can be one of the most
difficult things there is. Why? Because while you are dealing
with the right-instinct in another person, you have to
overcome the same instinct in yourself at the same time,
and that is an almost Herculean task sometimes!
Once you know the main principle
the instinct (desire, craving) to be right you could easily
figure out the principles of good human relations. What would
prevent the activation of the right-instinct in others? One thing
that helps in dealing with others, for example, is never to force
anything or give the appearance that you're trying to
force anything. Why? Because it makes people feel trespassed
against. It triggers the right-instinct and makes them try to
defend their violated "territory." Yet, done with skill,
the same person might gladly do the thing, as long as he felt
he was free to refuse.
The most powerful force for evil in this
world is people needing to feel right (or justified or
superior or respected it all amounts to the same thing).
And the most powerful force for good is the ability to deal with
people without arousing that need. The force for good is being
able to deal with people without making them feel you are tresspassing
against them or their ideas or anything they identify with. It's
the ability to avoid making them feel wrong. Do you know how
to do this? Yes, I'll bet you do. But here's the important question:
Do you apply what you know? I'll bet you feel you could
do better, and that's good. Growth and learning are wonderful.
The place to start is to read Dale Carnegie's
book, How to Win Friends and Influence People and
the PEOPLE section of my book, Self-Help Stuff That Works.
But then you have the task of putting that
stuff into practice. For more on making lasting changes in your behavior,
go here. Also, read