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The Secret to Interpersonal Happiness

The Secret to Interpersonal Happiness
Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

As much as we desire being connected to others — good friendships, a wonderful romantic relationship, close family members — this connection always comes at a cost.

We get frustrated by other people.

You know it’s true. You might be really good friends with someone, but then they get angry at you for some reason, or they behave without consideration, and all of a sudden, your mood is much darker. You’re not happy with them, maybe they’re not happy with you. Things can go sour very quickly.

This is such a difficult problem that you could devote entire books to ways of working out these kinds of conflicts and frustrations. But I have one technique that, if applied consistently, will lead to a lot more happiness.

The secret: always take the good-hearted view of other people.

That takes some explaining, so let’s take a look at two ways of looking at other people:

  1. The ill-intentioned view. When someone does something rude, you think, “Why do they have to be so inconsiderate?” or “Who does that?” Basically, you see their actions in the worst possible light, without putting yourself in their shoes. Most of us do this regularly without realizing it. Anytime you’re mad or frustrated with someone, this is what you’re doing.
  2. The good-hearted view. When someone does something inconsiderate — and I’m not saying their actions are justified — you can try to think of those actions in a good-hearted way. For example, maybe they’re having a bad day and are grump — that doesn’t excuse their actions, but you can understand the feeling of being grumpy. Or maybe they were hurt by something you did (which you might not realize) and they are lashing out because of that hurt. That’s not a nice way to react, of course, but we can all relate to feeling hurt and lashing out. So the good-hearted view is that this is someone you care about who is hurting. Forget the personal offense, think about their pain, and be compassionate towards that pain.

Let’s take a brief look at the ill-intentioned way of seeing things, then go into what I believe will transform most people’s interpersonal happiness — the good-hearted view.

Why the Ill-Intentioned View is a Problem

It’s easy to see the rudeness, inconsideration and plain wrongness of other people. That’s because we’re looking at it from our own point of view, and thinking they should see things the same way as you do.

For example:

  • They left dirty dishes or a big mess in the kitchen. Why didn’t they just clean up instead of being inconsiderate? You feel they’re not acting as they should.
  • They said something kind of mean to you. You have no idea why they would be mean, you’re a good person who doesn’t deserve that.
  • They are mad at you for some reason. You don’t deserve that! What’s their problem?

Of course, there are much worse things, but these are some typical interpersonal problems, and common reactions.

These are natural reactions, but looking at things this way causes you to feel bad about the other person. You are frustrated, angry, offended or hurt. You build up resentment.

Written by Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog with a million readers. He’s also a best-selling author, a husband, father of six children, and a vegan. In 2010 moved from Guam to California, where he leads a simple life.
He’s also a Zen student, and is on a mission to help the world open through uncertainty training.
Buy his books here

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