What If People Are Doing The Best They Can

By: Kate

"For the first 35 years of my life, I assumed people were sucking on purpose, just to piss me off." – Dr. Brene Brown

I don’t know anyone that hasn’t felt this way at one point or another.

When people are inconsiderate and hurt us, we assume that they are making a conscious choice to behave poorly.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, your first thought is probably something like “What a jerk!”

We make a set of negative assumptions about the person who cut us off based on our own frustration and anger.

Now think about a time that YOU cut someone off. Are you a jerk? No! 

Were you consciously making a choice? No! You’re a good person who makes mistakes, who has hard days or moments of thoughtlessness.

Think about this: What if people are doing the best they can?

Listen, it’s hard to attribute good motives to other people when their constant sucking exhausts you! This is where boundaries become important.

Boundaries are the healthy space that we create between ourselves and other people. Boundaries are what is ok and what is not ok with us.

Think of boundaries like the dashed white lines on the highway. They’re guidelines we each paint on our “road” to help us stay in our lane and other people stay in theirs.

With strong, healthy boundaries, we give ourselves permission to say no to people and situations that drain us.

Check your personal engine light! Observe yourself when you’re in a situation or around a person that drains you. How are you feeling emotionally? How are you feeling physically? Remember those feelings – when you experience them again, your personal engine light is telling you that your boundaries have been pushed or crossed.

Take some time to think about (and even write down) what is ok with you and what isn’t.

Practice! When you encounter someone or something that pushes your boundaries, speak up!

You don’t need to be angry or loud – calmly saying, “I don’t like that. Please, stop it.” is a good place to begin.

Expect that when you first start enforcing your boundaries, you might feel anxious. You might feel guilty. Some people might even be upset with you for changing!

Once you have figured out what is ok with you and begin expecting and asking people to “stay in their lane," you’ll start to feel a change. You won’t be angry. You won’t be resentful. Frustration with other people will begin to subside. You’ll start to feel emotionally well rested.

When you’re emotionally well-rested, you will actually be better able to care for others.

When your boundaries are strong and you’re emotionally well-rested,  the idea that other people are doing the best they can seems possible. If you can make that generous assumption, you’ll find that the way you interact with and experience other people and the world will change profoundly, for the better!

What are some practical, low/no conflict ways that you enforce your boundaries?