Psychologist Paula Bloom is always writing interesting blog posts over at PBS.org. Awhile back she asked the question, “Am I depressed or just deep?” and now she asks, “If I don’t agree with your pessimistic view on the world, why does that make me bad?” It got me thinking … because as a stage-four people-pleaser, I almost always agree with the person I’m talking to. I’m working on that … but it’s a hard habit to break. To read her entire post, click here. I’ve published an excerpt below:
There is a natural tendency in all of us to want to be validated. Feeling connected to others is a key to physical and emotional well being. We all want to feel heard.
Have you had the experience of someone telling you how bad his or her life is? You might listen for a while and then try to point out the bright side, silver lining or what is going right in their life, which is then met with “See, you just don’t get me.” Not only do they want to tell you how bad it all is they want to convince you to see it their way. Now, of course, feelings are feelings and it can be very liberating to share your feelings with others. As friends, colleagues, spouses and parents it is key that we have effective active listening skills so that the other person feels heard. This can go a long way into building relationships. However, there are times when helping someone see a more positive perspective can be very helpful.
I often encounter people who don’t just want to share with me how bad their lives are or the world might be. It is not enough that I listen and empathize. No, they want me to agree with them. They can almost be evangelical about their pessimism. Sometimes, I have a strong urge to just say, “Stop trying to convert me!” I get that it hurts. I get that you are struggling. But the idea that everything in this world is horrible and I am a jerk because I don’t agree; now that is a different story.
We all have a hypothesis for how we see the world and look for data to support. This hypothesis is often developed when we are younger. If you believe that the world is a dangerous place than of course you can find a lot of examples of that. Watch the local news on any given night and you will see all kinds of violence. Actually, you will be more drawn to stories that strengthen your view rather than those that conflict with it. Even if something is painful it is more comfortable for us to find things that agree. If you think you are a piece of junk then it will be far easier to believe those who agree with you. If someone says something nice to you, it won’t have any place to land in you and will more easily evaporate.