It’s not hard to predict that over the course of the day, today or any other day, you will come across someone who behaves like a jerk, either in real life or online. Of course, this doesn’t negate the fact we ourselves have been a jerk to others on certain occasions, but when we know that we may interact with someone who’s toxic or rude, the most important thing to consider is how to deal with such negativity when we least expect it to come our way.
It helps to get acquainted with the concept of Hanlon’s Razor as we deal with the negativity around us. It’s usually stated as: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
When we view negative interactions with people under this lens, we simply start thinking of them as the inevitable outcomes of imperfect humans living imperfect lives in an imperfect world. This change in perspective can have a significant effect on our mental well-being and happiness. Instead of getting angry and holding grudges in our minds and our hearts, we simply accept and acknowledge the imperfection of our human existence and move on with our lives.
The best strategy that can serve us, in the long run, is to condition ourselves to be ready for it and prepare in advance for negativity. This is what Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher did. In his journal, he wrote to himself:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
When we realize that the basic nature of all us is the same and that no one is an exception when it comes to going through imperfect circumstances, we start viewing any negative interactions that we have with someone in this light. It becomes easier to understand that the negativity that we’re subjected to is most certainly a direct result of some struggle that that person is going through.
The point of this preparation in advance is to essentially have a “foolproof shield” around us so that even when we get a negative response, it gets deflected and doesn’t pierce through us. It helps us experience unconditional happiness and we’re able to act with patience, tolerance, empathy and forgiveness. We position ourselves to embrace the higher and better part of our human nature, the one that is meant for co-operation, helping each other out and living in harmony.