Books mentioned: The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
Outside of your friends, when you see a person, do you think of them as more of a "friend" or more of an "enemy"?
You probably don't have strong feelings towards someone you don't know well, but what about people in your school or at work, or your neighbours?
Personally, I've always thought of this "other" bucket as people I wouldn't actively seek interaction with – they don't have any reason to help me, so they wouldn't. I should avoid them in general, because nothing good can come of it.
How do you think about people in the "other" bucket?
Life is Not a Competition
One key learning I took from "The Courage To Be Disliked" was to stop and think about how I approach my peers and why. I realised that, by default, I have a competitive world view. I don't think of myself as a particularly competitive person, but I understand now that this mindset partially stays with me – it was a by-product of having goals (going to university, moving abroad, etc.) that required a lot of effort in a competitive system, where you have to prove you are better than other applicants.
But life is not a competition – and it is not a ladder we're climbing but rather a field we're walking along, all in the same plane. We do not walk in order to compete with someone, we walk to move along and develop ourselves.
The unfortunate result of this mindset was that subconsciously I defaulted to labelling the "other" as "people who at worst are in competition with me (so we can't all succeed), and people who at best will not affect my life".
You Define Your World View
This is where the second key takeaway comes: you define your own world view.
Instead of labelling the "other" as competition, or subconsciously basing the label on subtle clues you pick up in the first few seconds of interaction (e.g. how do they greet me? are they ignoring me? do I like their voice?), you can realise that you have the power to define it proactively.
You can actively choose to think of people as your comrades in the first instance. They are your comrades by default, unless proven otherwise. You might have already realised what a huge difference this can make.
Quoting "The Courage To Be Disliked":
When you are able to truly feel that “people are my comrades,” your way of looking at the world will change utterly. No longer will you think of the world as a perilous place, or be plagued by needless doubts; the world will appear before you as a safe and pleasant place. And your interpersonal relationship problems will decrease dramatically.
If you think of people in the "other" bucket as comrades by default, it will put your mind at ease when approaching them and it can only have a positive impact on your interaction. As a result of your approach, their behaviour will also tend to be more comrade-like – people generally like to live up to positive labels they've received.
I doubted this idea until I thought about it from the other person's perspective. If someone at work came to you for your advice, or praised your work, or asked how to emulate your success (thinking of you as a comrade), wouldn't you return the positive sentiments with your help or thanks?
So what are some practical takeaways, and how do you think of people as comrades? For me, it's:
- Try to be helpful to others in general, even if you don't know them. Small acts of kindness – such as giving way to something when driving, or buying someone a coffee – do a lot more for you than you think. They improve your feeling of belonging to a community.
- Don't be afraid of approaching acquaintances or strangers as friends. For example, if you're stuck on a problem at school or work, feel free to ask for help from a classmate / colleague even if you don't know them well. If a new neighbour has moved in, welcome them to the neighbourhood with some food.
- If you see someone succeeding, don't assume their success means your failure. If a classmate gets into a good university, or if someone at work gets promoted before you do, it's natural to compare their success with yours. But next time it happens, approach it positively and see what you can learn from them. Remember, we are not climbing a single ladder, but walking a field, and we're all walking on our own paths.