Beliefs About People

What is your default belief about people?

Are they inherently good or bad?

Are they helpful or out to get you?

Do they have good intentions or harmful ones?

These are kinds of questions that point to our hidden narrative about other humans, and this informs much of how we treat other people, and ourselves (we are a person, after all). We develop our narrative about people from being around people.

It’s simple, except that it’s not.

Limited Samples

Much of our narrative is handed to us by the religion or ideology we are raised with, with the set of ideas that explains how the world got here and why people are the way they are. Much of our narrative is distorted by the people most immediate to us, and this is hardly a representative sample. Much of our narrative about other people is determined by how we see ourselves, and this is also rarely accurate.

We are also blinded from truly understanding other people’s motives and reasons for doing what they do. We only see the results, and we often interpret these through the lens of our own wants and needs and expectations and beliefs. These all distort our assessment of why they do what they do.

The Ledger

Putting check marks on the “People are Ok” side of the ledger is important. It can help shift our perspective on others and allows the world to be a friendlier place.

Think of how many people you pass by on a given day. This can be at the mall, at school, at work, on the roads, everywhere. So many people, a vast majority of whom are strangers.

How many times have you been assaulted, beaten or robbed?

How many times have you been insulted, or verbally attacked?

How many times have you been scammed or ripped off?

Even if these numbers are high, how do they compare to the number of times these things have not happened to you? Numerically speaking, have you found most that most people behave terribly to everyone, or do they mind their business and move on?

How many times have you seen strangers help each other, or exchange a kind word for no reasons other than they are in the same space? How many times have you done something kind for someone for no reason?

The idea that people are inherently bad or evil doesn’t hold water when we test it against the larger population and our experience of living in a complex society where we are often surrounded by strangers. We wouldn’t have made it this long as a species if it were true, and things like driving and shopping and having schools for our kids would be impossible.

What is your narrative about people?

Does it hold up to investigation?