Patiently try to understand others, and remember, it’s almost always better to be kind

Too many people go through life without seriously considering the perspectives of others. Our snap judgments are particularly detrimental to youth. So many kids are labeled troublemakers and bad apples because they act out. They are seen as needing to be chastised or requiring a lesson rather than someone to be thoughtfully listened to.

It’s possible in the immediate intervention that they might not be able to articulate their perspective. Don’t get upset or feel like it was a wrong approach. Striving to be more understanding is almost never the wrong approach. A lot of people lack the self-awareness to eloquently articulate trauma or abuse or their general source of self-destructive tendencies. Therefore, it’s necessary to be patient and to try to get a sense of the context to eventually help guide them toward insight. In this regard, you become someone slowly shepherding toward greater understanding rather than a part of the problem.

A last important element in this process of perspective taking and helping is the notion of fundamental attribution error. This is a common bias. It’s seen when we believe someone is behaving some way because that’s who they are rather than because of their circumstances. If we can remember that someone is behaving some way because of the accumulation of their circumstances, we can be more empathetic.

I know that what I’m saying is easier said than done. Some folks, especially bratty kids, seem to just be totally self-centered and terrible. But remember that it’s almost never okay to treat someone badly just because they’ve treated us badly. Showing kindness, forgiveness, and understanding when we’ve been mistreated can be immensely powerful. If it’s not immediately, it might be later. And if it’s not, oh well, it’s better to be kind than to be mean – even if it’s just for our emotional health.