What Does It Mean To See Others As People?

Interpersonal Relationships Nov 29, 2020

When attending our sessions on Emotional Intelligence Mindset, people often get confused at one point during the sessions. When we introduce the two mindsets- a self-focused Inward Mindset and an impact-focused Outward Mindset, participants have a question: can I always operate with an Outward Mindset? Aren’t there times when I have to look out for myself? If this is what you’re still wondering, explore more about the Costs of an Inward Mindset. If you’ve moved past that point and so well and truly understand the consequences of an Inward Mindset, you might have another question. You might say this: I understand Inward Mindset is not healthy for my relationships. But how does Outward Mindset work when I clearly disagree with the other person?

Make sure you aren’t exacerbating the situation
Firstly, we want to reassure you that by Outward Mindset, we don’t mean not holding people accountable. By all means, we should. That is how we  grow and attain the results we would like to see. However, if we treat people we disagree with as objects (the hallmark of an inward mindset), we invite resistance. It is worth noting that as humans, we always have the capacity to make things worse. When we allow the actions of those we disagree with to lure us into inwardness, we give them further reasons to continue doing the very things we wish we could change about them. For example, I think my partner is ‘controlling’ and so, when she wants me to go about the house chores, I withdraw and shut down. Seeing this, she feels the need to push me further into doing what she would like me to do. I shut down even further by justifying that my stance is understandable given how she ‘pushes me around’.

Know that beyond yourself, there is nothing you can control
Others’ mindset and behaviors are not something that is up to us. However, what is in our power is to operate with an Outward Mindset because we understand well the consequences on an Inward Mindset. When things are difficult, it is especially important that we don’t get sucked into the lure of an Inward Mindset. Yes, we can’t guarantee that just because we operate from an Outward Mindset, others will become outward too. However, given how humans need empathy before they can give empathy, our inwardness is very likely to invite others to also see us as obstacles.

Say it as it is
Keeping in mind how we don’t want to make things worse and also that we can only focus on our own mindset and behaviors, we can still operate to bring honesty in our interactions. If something isn’t to our liking, it is imperative that we say it as it is. But that is only possible with an Outward Mindset. With in Inward Mindset, we get drawn into a cycle of blame and justification. As a result, we cannot focus on what actually happened but rather jump directly into how we were affected by what happened; making it all about us. For example, consider a mother who calls her daughter lazy. This is a form of diagnosis: a major form of disconnection. Instead of labeling her daughter, with an Outward Mindset, the mother can still invite her daughter to an open conversation. She can cite the fact that the daughter hasn’t cleaned her room for over three days and as a result, she is frustrated and would like to know what happened to her daughter’s promise. This approach is not merely a different form of communication but rather a shift in mindset. Here, the mother takes responsibility for her feelings and needs rather than blaming her daughter. And this is possible only because she is able to distinguish what happened (three days of daughter not cleaning her room) from her judgment of what happened (my daughter is lazy). This shift in mindset is about seeing her daughter as a person with her own subjective reality and inviting dialogue rather than diagnosing her as ‘lazy’ just because she didn’t do as requested. 

With an Outward Mindset, we are drawn to finding solutions by considering an essential stance: that everyone has needs and that if we try to push just our needs by treating others as mere objects, the relationship will not go very far. When someone does something we don’t like, instead of the typical Inward way of blaming others, Outward Mindset invites us to firstly connect at the level of needs. When we connect at that level, it becomes much easier to strategize ways to meet everyone’s needs. This is what it means to see others as people.

Sagar Satyal is co-founder at My Emotions Matter and can be reached at [email protected]

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Sagar Satyal

Sagar Satyal is co-founder at My Emotions Matter and can be reached at [email protected]