Studying human behavior has always been a fascinating pastime for me. I majored in sociology in college and the question was always: how does the behavior of others apply to me and what am I going to do with a sociology degree?
the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others.“he will vouch for her good behaviour”
synonyms: conduct, way of behaving, way of acting, deportment, bearing, etiquette; More
the way in which an animal or person behaves in response to a particular situation or stimulus.plural noun: behaviours; plural noun: behaviors“the feeding behaviour of predators”
I admittedly spend too much time trying to figure people out; individuals and groups alike. I make the same mistake over and over again; I usually believe people will react the way I do. We all know how ridiculous that assumption is. We’re raised differently, we learn from different people and we all have a different moral compass. If you think you’re more trustworthy or “right” than the next guy, that’s a huge mistake and it’s bound to get you into trouble.
Whenever I write about my family, I am concerned that I will alienate or offend someone I care deeply about. So once again, I will not mention names. Except this one time: My niece Nicole is close to giving birth to twins; very close. This is a very positive “family” happening and from where I’m sitting it appears that all of the people around her are excited for her. This will of course change the dynamic of Nicole’s immediate family and I consider myself a part of Nicole’s immediate family. Because of Nicole’s positive energy and desire to be a mother, the behavior I am observing and the words I have been hearing, have been upbeat and anxious anticipation, “When will they come, what will they be like, and how what sort of mother will I be?”
I am looking forward to the joy this boy and girl will bring to the family. My sister and her husband will be wonderfully loving grandparents, my nephew will be a terrific uncle and my niece will be an exceptional mother. Observing all of this from Portugal will be joyful and sad; sad because I am thousands of miles away. Thanks to modern technology I will be able to have frequent contact and I will be meeting my great niece and nephew in Baltimore this coming December. Although this experience is not new for me, never having had my own children has made having lots of nieces and nephews, very special.
The behavior of family members mattered more to me when I was closer in proximity; moving overseas has helped me put their love into perspective. It sort of always goes back to how being human makes us all different and trying to appreciate where the other person is coming from.
My close friends are all very different and I love that about them. I have not heard one of my friends disparage another one of my friends; this is important to me. They each know how much I love them and they are also aware of how much I love and admire my other friends. It’s been very important to share my appreciation for them and to show them how grateful I am to have them in my life. What I have observed in my friends is respect, admiration and loyalty. I’m not sure it would be fair or reasonable to ask for anything more than that.
I have also learned that when a friend behaves in a way that disturbs me, it is essential to share my feelings as soon after the incident as possible; waiting is unfair. Friends deserve clear communication and a great deal of consideration. Remember to listen. Also, remember to be loving and forgiving.
When I observe strangers, it is usually through a non-judgmental lens, unless they do one of the following:
- fail to clean-up their dog’s poop
- behave cruelly to animals
- verbally or physically abuse their partner/child/friend in public
- speak loudly on their cell phone
- act extremely intoxicated or tripping out on one drug or another
- display a weapon in a threatening manner
- publicly display signs of racism, prejudice, anti-semitism, anti-homosexuality, anti-individuality, anti-freedom, hate or disregard for humanity.
Here are some of the things I say to myself when I am observing human behavior:
- She talks and talks and talks and doesn’t listen to a word anyone else is saying.
- If he leaves that pile of shit on the ground, I am saying something.
- Why does she wait until the moment she is getting on the bus to take her money out to pay? She’s been standing at the bus stop for 20 minutes.
- Who does he or she think they are?
- Why doesn’t he just stay home?
- Where does this person come from?
- How can I make it stop?
- I need to get away from here.
Why I Need to Stop
Just observing human behavior is fun; however, attempting to figure out why people say or do the things they say or do, is just plain unhealthy. We are so often wrong for the simple reason that we cannot be inside someone else’s head; it’s just not possible. Sure you may know someone a long time and their behavior may be somewhat predictable, but people do often surprise us and sometimes the surprise is positive.
What I’d like to more often, is ask why. Why are you raising your voice? Why are you pointing your finger at me? Why are you angry right now? I think if I ask because I’m genuinely interested, the response will enlightening. It’s important to not be patronizing or passive aggressive.
“Rob, I’m not sure what’s happening today, but you seem upset about something; can you tell me about it?”
“Trish, I’m not sure you whether or not you realize this, but your voice is louder than it usually is right now. What’s up?”
“Mike, some of the words you’re using are hurtful. I wanted to let you know that I’m confused about why you are saying these things to me.”
“Sue, what am I doing right now that is making you angry? I promise to just listen and hear you.”