Through out my life, I’ve been a collector of advice and of insights into human behaviour.
Now if you’ve been following the reproducibility crisis, you’ll know that the sciences, and especially those studying human behaviour, are going through a bit of a moment which is calling into question some of the insights we have previously held to be true.
However, it’s also true that sometimes, especially when it comes to understanding the complex area of human behaviour, that some things don’t need to be scientifically provable to be helpful.
Here are four observations about human behaviour that I have found really useful. They have repeatedly given me “a-ha” moments in life and helped me change how I was responding to things.
Realisation 1: Anger usually comes from a place of fear
I really don’t remember where I first heard this one, but it has become a really useful tool for understanding my own response and others’ response to situations.
Firstly, whenever I feel angry, I am able to catch myself. I then ask myself what I am afraid of that is causing me to arc up in anger.
Secondly, it helps me to be more empathetic to others who are responding with anger. I ask myself if I can see what fear is driving their response. And when the time is right, I can even ask them the same question.
Getting to this deep level of understanding about what has triggered the anger is really helpful to address the root cause and diffuse the anger. Even just recognising the fear that drives it takes some of the sting out.
Realisation 2: Don’t hold rest as a reward you have to earn
This is something I have only just realised recently. It came out of observing my own behaviour and my habit of repeatedly driving myself to a point of exhaustion before I rested. (And even then I didn’t rest well)
It dawned on me that I was holding rest out as something I could only do when I was really truly too exhausted to do anything else. Instead of a necessary part of functioning, I saw it as the fall-back when I’d spent all my resources.
In a warped kind of way, I was incentivising myself to burnout. Only when I burnt up all my energy would I allow my body and mind the rest it so desperately needed.
To be honest, I am still wrestling with this one. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s no over night fix. However, as with the anger-fear observation, now that I have seen what’s going on, I can keep reminding myself that rest prepares me for function; rather than being the incentive for burning out.
Realisation 3: I am imperfect and loved
I know this sounds like a cat poster or a quote on a “white woman’s Instagram”. But I remember the moment that I first actually understood this.
I grew up in a Christian home and was home-schooled. I did so few things that anyone in or out of my church would consider really “sinful”. Sure I got upset and made mistakes. But, although I never would have admitted it out loud, I really felt like I was at least giving my best effort to doing the right thing.
I had convinced myself that I had earned the right to be admired and loved. Which ironically, didn’t really leave me feeling admired or loved. Believing that I’d worked so hard to be “good” and therefore loveable only meant I’d solidified the idea that only my “goodness” and compliance earned me love. And therefore it was very hard to actually accept. Because that kind of approval isn’t really love.
Then I finally did something “sinful”. It was hardly shocking. Most readers wouldn’t even put it in that category. The point was, I let myself. I fell short of my own standard for my life, for the first time in a way that I felt was really serious.
But then standing in church feeling super guilty about it, I realised for the first time the whole point of the gospel: grace. I was loved anyway. I was in the fold anyway. What I had done didn’t result in rejection from the one who’s opinion mattered the most.
And that’s when I realised what real unconditional love was about. And that is about as life changing as it can get.
This one is also really easy to forget. All the more when it’s easy to forget your own imperfections and start to think the love has anything to do with “goodness” again. But the forgetting is an opportunity to be reminded again.
And lastly, there are people everywhere
I know today’s blog is a little different. A little more personal. A little less career related. But this blog is about documenting the fact we are still human at work. We bring all of this into our workplaces and our collaborations with others. It’s these human realisations that enable us to relate to others. They help us be human in our interactions, rather than doing the bare minimum of what policy and social politeness requires.
It’s easy to forget that sometimes.
As I mentioned, I grew up in the church. And this brought with it a weighty consciousness of how I was serving and loving other humans. My corporate career for a long time felt like the furthest things from that. Especially accounting. Doesn’t the Bible say money is the root of all evil?
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. — 1 Timothy 6:10
Oh, that’s right, it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil.
And that’s where the last realisation came in. The realisation that there are people everywhere. People with lives. With good stuff happening, with bad stuff happening. People that needed humanness and the type of love that I experienced. And these people were even at work, in my big corporate job.
I think that’s what has made me so passionate about the business world. It’s a place that can feel really inhuman at times. But it’s also a really massive part of so many people’s lives.
And if I can make a positive difference for just a few of those very real people, then that’s enough.