Social relationships are a large part of many people’s daily lives, so it is often very easy for us to form our own judgments and perceptions of how others are thinking and feeling.
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While we can never truly know another person the way that we know ourselves, the instinct to view people in our lives through either a positive, neutral or negative lens can be quite influential regarding our interactions.
The problem is that if you are an individual with a pessimistic or cynical personality, you may be prone to telling yourself things about your friends, family and acquaintances that are not only invalid but also damaging to your psyche.
Break this cycle by resolving to stop thinking the worst about others by default and opening your mind to an alternative and more balanced view. Here is a look at 12 things that you should do in the quest to improve your interpersonal relationships.
1. Stop Expecting Others To Be Perfect At All Times
If you are a perfectionist in general, you may find yourself putting unreasonable expectations on others to never make mistakes in their personal or professional lives. Remind yourself that absolutely no one is without shortcomings and that it is unfair to expect perfection at all times from the people with whom you interact. Be understanding when others are imperfect; after all, you are imperfect, too, and you would want the same grace extended toward you.
2. Avoid Being Unsympathetic To Those Whom You Dislike
While it’s true that you certainly do not have to like every person with whom you cross paths in life, demonstrating a basic lack of sympathy and compassion when one of these people falls on tough times is not a becoming trait. You may tell yourself that the individual in question would not care if the tables were turned and you were having troubles, but you cannot know this for certain, so steer clear of ill will.
3. Refrain From Taking Others’ Actions Personally
One of the biggest challenges for many people concerning social interactions is avoiding internalizing the words, behaviors and actions of others. Take steps to overcome this negative way of thinking by repeating to yourself that other people’s issues are about them, not you. When you are tempted to take something personally, give yourself some distance from the situation for a bit, and hopefully any awkward feelings will be short-lived.
4. Stop Blaming Personal Shortcomings On Other People
Take responsibility for areas of your life and aspects of your personality that can benefit from self-reflection and improvement. Those who become accustomed to placing the blame for their shortcomings on others, such as parents, bosses and friends, fail to grow as emotionally healthy individuals and easily alienate the people whom they turn into scapegoats.
If you find yourself thinking that your problems are always someone else’s fault, you could benefit from some introspection.
5. Resist Being Judgmental Toward Those Who Are Different
At one time or another, many people have the experience of harshly judging the thought processes of individuals who do things just a little bit differently than the majority. It can be easy to fall into the habit of believing that these “out of the box” thinkers are wrong in their approach to various situations, but try to understand that your way isn’t necessarily the best and only way. Learn from those who are different.
6. Avoid Taking Others’ Emotions At Face Value
Do not take for granted that a friend or acquaintance is happy and carefree just because he or she says that this is the case. Everyone has troubles, but a lot of people become adept at masking them with forced smiles, words and actions. Stop convincing yourself that everyone except you is content all of the time as this is an impossible feat. Often, more complex emotions are taking place below the surface.
7. Try Not To Distrust People As A Whole
While it’s natural to gain an increasing amount of trust in people once you get to know them on a closer level, starting with the basic premise that absolutely no one can be trusted is highly detrimental to your mental well-being. Even if you have been disappointed by someone in the past who turned out to be dishonest, remember that others deserve a chance before being written off as untrustworthy.
8. Resist Thinking The Worst Of People
If you consistently regard people through a negative perspective, you may eventually reach the point where you automatically think that everyone you meet is out to harm you in some way. Keep in mind that very few people are exclusively defined by their “worst” traits, and practice focusing on at least one positive characteristic of each person in your life. Appreciate others instead of looking for ulterior motives.
9. Stop Trying To Read Others’ Minds
When communicating with people, always ensure that you give them ample opportunity to voice their thoughts. Never approach a conversation with the mindset that you already know exactly how the other person is going to think and behave and that you should be able to control the dialogue. Convincing yourself that you can read people’s minds is a tactic that is sure to backfire.
10. Don’t Let Your Perception Of Others Spin Out Of Reality
Sometimes, interactions with others can cause a person to read something into the situation that is not factual, which can lead to conclusions being driven by an overactive imagination. For example, mistaking friendliness for romantic affection can put unrealistic expectations on the other person that are bound to cause confusion and conflict over time. Strive to assess other people’s actions with a grounded mind.
11. Refrain From Labeling People
During your school years, you more than likely experienced being labeled by other students as a member of a certain group, and you in turn probably labeled your classmates in a similar manner. In adulthood, it is important to remember that people are far more than what a label might describe. Don’t categorize your friends and acquaintances using shallow standards.
12. Stop Downplaying Others’ Good Deeds
When someone in your life does something nice for you, whether it’s out of the kindness of their hearts or as a reciprocated favor, be grateful for that person’s actions. Avoid minimizing the gesture by telling yourself that you aren’t worthy of good deeds and that the other individual must have had something personal to gain. Make the effort to help people in your life, too.
If you find that your negative thoughts about other people and the ways in which they interact with you are too difficult to overcome on your own, consider seeking the guidance of a trusted mentor or counselor. He or she can offer professional assistance in helping you to re-frame your thinking in ways that will enable you to perceive others in a more positive and productive light.