Unlearn some lessons your mom taught you…

Over the Winter break, I got into an argument over whether we should care about what other people think.    It started with one family member rallying other family members against an innocent party, and things turned ugly (not that family fights are ever pretty).

It went a little like this.

Other person, giving ‘advice’ to the person who had actually been living with the problem:  “I raise my kids not to care what other people think.   I tell them ‘If someone else is judging you, you don’t want them around anyway’.”

To which I had to reply, “That isn’t always true, a person’s reputation does matter.”

She repeated, “I raise my kids not to care what other people think.   They’ve turned out okay so far.”

“But how people perceive us impacts how well we can communicate, and how well our emotional support network works.”   I gestured to our now arguing companions.

She repeated, “I raise my kids not to care what other people think.   They’ve turned out okay so far.”

“You aren’t listening to anything I’m saying.   I’m going to stop talking to you now.”

Understandably, developing self-identity and self esteem is extremely important.   I admit that in certain times and places we should disregard the opinions of others, but to say that it is always true is naive at best.   While this is a tactic that may work on a playground, it sure as hell won’t cut it in the business world.   Or a courtroom.   I certainly hope that this woman’s children outgrow these lessons and take a more nuanced approach to the world.

The most glaring problem with the “don’t care” philosophy is the fact that humans are social animals.   One of the reasons that humans are an apex species is because we cooperate!    It is hardwired in us to CARE about our fellow humans, and to crave social contact.   Shunning was one of the oldest known punishments, and another reason why people labeled as a “pariah” or “loner”  are considered sad, lonely, or dangerous.   “Slander” and “Libel” are crimes for a reason.

So here are my lists of when to care, and when you are free to invite the other party to urinate into a moving fan:

When to care:

  1.  When another person’s opinion directly affects your physical safety.  (i.e. don’t piss off judges, cops, or your ER doctor).
  2.  When another person’s opinion affects your career or profession. (Be on good terms with your boss if you can, as well as the accounting staff, and the folks in HR if you ever want to get paid regularly).
  3.  When another person’s opinion adversely affects your CHOSEN support network.  (Some folks will lie and try to alienate you from important people… like your kids, your friends, or your teammates.).
  4. When someone you trust and respect is trying to give you feedback about your behavior.  (“Hey, you might not want to drink so much.”)

When not to care:

  1. If a person’s opinion does not impact your physical, professional, or opinion of your ingroup.      -OR-
  2. A person’s good or bad opinion is causing you harm (like supporting addictions, abuse, or codependency)
  3. A person is actively forcing their opinion on you, disregarding your own opinions.
  4. Someone is being demeaning, being offensive, or being a bully.

Ignoring bullies on the playground or a school is one thing.   They are trying to bolster themselves at your expense, and supporting their behavior is a horrible idea.   Incidentally, dealing with bullies takes more than a SINGLE technique (some bullies, ignoring them doesn’t help).   Bullies are individuals, too.

(As for folks who want to bring me or my family down:   thank you for your opinions.   May I offer you this invitation to go piss into a moving fan?)

But reaching out to people is a good thing.

I like people.   People are fun.  And tasty.


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