As people, we like to brag. A lot. I don’t know the evolutionary psychology behind it but I’m sure we have neural pathways with the only purpose of feeling superior to others.
In the past, we bragged about a lot of things. As caveman – my club is bigger than yours. Bang! In the middle ages – I have a better horse than yours. In the 1800s – I have more slaves than you. In the 2000s – I’m an atheist, I’m smarter than you.
Well … it seems that the trend in 2016 is to brag about self-improvement. To be more specific – to find it impossible to consider that some people may not be interested in what you’re interested too and how your lecture of Napoleon Hill can save their life – if only they would listen to you.
Look … I’m a big, big time reader of self-improvement. I average way over 50 books per year and many are in this area. In the beginning, I was looking around me and I’ve thought that I had the keys and the answers to everything – that I know what every friend and stranger should do – just if he / she will listen to me. And … nobody listened. Some were polite to listen, approved me but never changed.
That’s when I’ve became frustrated. How dare you? I’m showing you a key to change your life. You’ve told me that you want a better life and better results. Now I’m showing you how to do this. How dare you not follow them? Idiot. You’re not my friend anymore.
This is how it was happening. Well, maybe not so dramatic but not that far away either. The simple fact that someone may not subscribe to my same principles, mindset, goals was so insulting that I’ve broke up many friendships because of this. It’s like the deism vs atheism principle – “what, you don’t believe in God? I’m sorry … we can’t be friends”.
It was … or is immature. Believe me. And it was … is hypocritical. Why? Five reasons. Plus a bonus one.
Reason #1 – People change for their own reasons. Somebody told me that smoking is bad for me. I’ve heard this many times so I’ve dismissed it. A smarter person quantified it and showed me what I’m losing – in terms of physical capacity, money even self-respect and how it is shaping my behavior. That person was … right.
The logic was right. It wasn’t fairy dust. I still didn’t quit even if I’ve agreed. Why? Because people change themselves when they want to change themselves, not when you give them reasons to do so.
This is one of those logical fallacies that nobody gets it. Another similar one is giving someone reasons to be happy or someone reasons not to be upset. When someone is upset, that person doesn’t engage in an emotional state based on a rational calculation that lead to pain. It is simply a primal, instinctive emotion that was activated. Bringing rational reasons to change an emotional state is like bringing winter clothes in the middle of the summer. It is functional, you may need them (especially if you live in England) but overall, from a logical perspective, the only reaction is “WTF?”.
People don’t change just because you give them reasons to change. People change them they give themselves reasons to change, most probably when they want something so much or they are in so much pain that the status quo won’t do it anymore.
Reason #2 – Logic is over-rated in human interactions.
Some people appreciate logic and live under it. Most don’t. Life is mostly not a debate and people don’t admit defeat just because you’ve beat them on a verbal level. In other words, you can be the smartest person in the world and have the best arguments – this may not change a person towards your direction not even a bit.
Instead, you change a person using mental and emotional judo. You take what that person already believes and slowly you move the direction towards another point. You never slap people with ideas in the face. You’ll just get their resentment and you’ll fail at your goal to persuade them.
Reason #3 – There is a thing called subjective experience.
You know where I am now? I’m at McDonalds. I’m not eating. I’m having a coffee. I actually like the McCoffee. It’s around 3 USD. StarBucks is next to McDonalds. I may not afford to go daily only to StarBucks but I can go now. I’m not. Why?
Because I consider that coffee not to be that good. I think it is overrated. I think that I don’t need their dim light to work or to read a book. And for 25% of the price, I’m getting actually a good deal at McDonalds.
This is a subjective experience. It’s what I like and I don’t like based on an intricate patterns of “self” that determine who I am. Some people like to go there every single day and they enjoy every single sip from their $15 USD coffee. I don’t.
The point is that if someone tries to convince me that I’m getting a lot more there, I won’t believe him. He can bring me all the facts in the world and he may be right. They have good internet. People are quiet and everyone is working, kind of priming you to work too. Every time you go there, it is like the Apple Store with a lot of focused people. The coffee is high quality and they have a lot of options. This is the objective truth. Yet, I don’t like StarBucks so much.
Reason #4 – People don’t like to feel inferior.
You’re walking down the street. I come to you and I tell you this.
“Look, you are walking almost every day. So why aren’t you listening to an audiobook? You could finish several books in a month. Aren’t you upset that you don’t have more money and that you are not as smart as you want to be? Really, listen to an audiobook”.
While to the untrained eye, this may seem a good persuasion pattern, since I’ve agitated him, actually, it is an awful one. I’ve basically said “you suck” and while I may be right, it’s kind of hard to react to negative feedback in a positive way. It takes a certain degree of maturity to do this, a level that most people don’t have, me included.
As a human, our first reaction when we get negative feedback, no matter how useful it may be is to feel a negative emotion. You can be the Dalai Lama, you’ll still feel on an instinctive, even visceral level, a negative feeling when you are judged, directly or indirectly.
From that moment, you can make a choice and take it as positive, constructive feedback but this part is a rational one, it is a choice. If no choice is made, then you’ll feel like that person attacked you. So even if you are right, if the other person feels insulted, you think you’ve accomplished something? You are not a philosopher into some deep search of truth. Your responsibility as someone’s friend is to exchange value, not to act as the emotional equivalent to Wikipedia, cold, ruthless, apathetic. Your job is to make the other person feel good and only when there is a very special situation, to sacrifice this for the truth.
And let’s be honest … You’re not that perfect either. It doesn’t feel good, does it?
Reason #5 – Truth is subjective
Okay … what is right and wrong?
For example, it is wrong to kill? Are you sure? It is wrong to kill someone that wants to kill you? It is wrong to kill someone that wants to kill your family? OK, let’s go to something smaller as this may not be the best example. It is wrong to lie? This is what the bible says, as the atheist in me actually read a part of the bible.
If your lie would make someone want to commit suicide, it is bad anymore? After all, preserving someone’s life comes higher than the truth.
You see where’s the problem? There is no real hierarchy of values and it is all relative to something else. This is why morality can’t be defined more than a system of values relative to a reference point. The same can be said about some parts of the truth.
What is true for you may not be true for another person. What works for me, may not work for another person. While proven principles tend to be universal, circumstances differ. This means that you can take an concept and have different results with two different people just because their circumstances are different.
BONUS: If people actually need you help, they’ll come to ask for it. Just because you have the tool to being rich, happy and sexy, this doesn’t mean other people are actively looking for it. So don’t help people that don’t want to be helped and instead focused on those that actually appreciates it. If you came to my house and offered me to sell a bottle of water, I may pay $0.5 for it. If you find me in the desert, after three days with no water, I’ll pay $500. Just because someone needs it, this doesn’t mean the person is willing to value the advice. Find those who do.
Time for a conclusion. If you want to improve your life, improve your life. Don’t brag about it. Don’t force others to see who you are. Nobody cares. Use that time to do what you need to do to get results. You’ll be rewarded in many ways but nobody is going to raise you a statue because you know more than others.
PS: Be so dedicated to making your life and the life of those you love better (BUT NOT BY FORCING OR EVEN TRYING TO CHANGE THEM) that you don’t have time to judge how others are not what you want them to be.