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What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Take a minute to think about the worst thing you've ever done to someone else. No really, it's not a pleasant experience, but stop and think about something that you've done to another person which on reflection, you realise was wrong/mean/inconsiderate/cruel etc.

Now, with that memory in mind, try to remember how you got to the point of doing the deed. What was going through your mind in the 1 - 3 minutes before you did it? How did you feel? What was driving your behaviour?

The chances are, if you're like 99% of people on this planet, in the exact moment that you did the deed, you felt like it was the right thing to do. You felt justified in your action, or you wouldn't have done it in the first place. If it was an extreme circumstance, it might even be that fight or flight drove your response, and even then, in that exact moment, it felt like the only thing to do.

I would assert that people very rarely do something that they know is wrong in the exact moment they did it. On reflection, we may well realise that it was wrong, but in the exact moment that we chose that action over another, we felt like it was the right choice.

We spend so much time looking at other peoples actions, and our starting assumption is that the other person knows it is a bad/hurtful decision, and yet they make it anyway. "They" are evil, "they" can clearly see this is a bad action, "they" are trying to hurt us.

When we start from this place, we have an immediate enemy, and it's game over.

One of the things I love about having young children is that it's much easier to hold a neutral/positive view of what is driving their behaviour than it is with adults. Especially with toddlers, they're so young, and clearly just trying to figure out how the world works. Their behaviour might drive us mad at times, but the starting assumption is rarely that they are purposefully being vindictive or trying to be hurtful.

And yet, when it comes to adults, this is often the first place we go.

Coming back to toddlers, imagine we raced to the same conclusions with them as we do with adults? I would easily then assume that when my boy isn't eating his food, it's because he knows I've had a long day and now wants to make me suffer. When he cries in the night, it's because he knows we're already tired and wants to put the final nail in the coffin because it feels good to hurt other people.

And yet, when it comes to adults, this is exactly what we do, and we forget that in every adult is just another emerging child who is trying to figure out how the world works.

- Does this mean we should tolerate bad behaviour? Not for a second.

- Does this mean we should stop putting up clear boundaries around acceptable behaviour? Absolutely not.

What is does mean, however, is that our starting assumption when someone acts poorly is not that they are trying to hurt us. Rather, we start from a place of curiosity. We change from "They are...." to "I wonder why they..."

From this place of curiosity, we can create bridges, we can create understanding, we can allow people to feel seen, understood and accepted.


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