Being Considerate is Mind-boggling Difficult but Increasingly Relevant
I write this post in the wake of a debate I had with one of my friends about the intentions and impact of an incident in which I propagated my beliefs about religion onto someone else.
For context, I place a very high value on the wellbeing of others - whether it be on a personal or societal level. There exist an infinite amount of ways that one can care about and increase the wellbeing of others through day-to-day actions. One of these methods is through being considerate of other people's mental health - which is what society has slowly progressed towards over the last several decades.
One of the fundamental aspects of mental health lies in one's grasp of reality. As a result, modern society has learned to place a high value on self-identity after centuries of oppression (wow, I really do sound like a liberal arts student now). I'll investigate the importance of self-identity when I gain a better understanding of it - for now, I'm okay with simply understanding that self-identity is crucial to one's self-worth and subsequent mental health.
Anyways, there are a few parts of my mindset which I wish to present that further explain the context. I am not afraid to share my beliefs and debate any topic. I also strongly believe in atheism. Lastly, I study psychology and philosophy, and have a relatively strong applicable understanding of how people think and why they think what they think.
So when a tarot card reader gave me predictions, I did not hesitate to fire back my responses. After reading through his texts, I methodically broke down every factor in every interpretation he made about my past, present, and future. I explained the mental fallacies, social patterns, and logical holes that toppled his arguments and undermined the whole legitimacy of tarot cards.
He had no response.
Normally, I would have been satisfied with that and called it a day. But my friends pointed out something I did not see.
Presenting my beliefs about tarot cards to someone who did not explicitly solicit feedback, who's beliefs do not significantly impact my life, and who might start seriously doubting his prior beliefs on the validity of tarot cards can be psychologically damaging to them. If the tarot card reader associated a large part of his identity with tarot cards and my arguments negated all of his prior understandings and dealings with tarot cards, I could be erasing a defining aspect of his self-identity.
Now, there are many arguments that I can make for myself in this situation. I could say that...
it is his responsibility to have strong backings to his beliefs.
beliefs and thoughts should be openly challenged and debated to encourage a search for the truth.
I am simply presenting my views on something that I am passionate about.
freedom of speech includes and is largely built by being able to challenge others' opinions and beliefs.
From my perspective, these arguments would make perfect sense, because...
I do have very strong beliefs and it is difficult for me to fathom when other people deeply believe in ideas without logical premises.
I believe that one of the deep meanings of life is that we are all on a search for truth, which is highlighted by the fact that I would want my beliefs to be furiously challenged by anyone who finds a weakness.
I could not have known that making arguments would harm his sense of self.
his attribution of tarot cards to his identity has no reason to be more important than my attribution of being able to challenge others to my wellbeing.
All of these points are true. However, even if I am justified in my actions, no matter how you put it, those actions were not considerate of the other person's beliefs. And despite each of the above arguments and their supporting explanations, each of them can be refuted under the standard of being considerate.
I was not empathic by definition when I assumed that other people also only believe in ideas when they are backed by strong logical premises.
I assumed that other people are on a search for truth, and that no matter what, getting closer to the truth is more comforting in the long run than any other option. However, most people are okay with believing in things without fully understanding them.
With my understanding of mental health, I should have understood the ramifications of presenting my arguments.
I am fine not having to challenge his world view, while he may not be fine with his world view being challenged.
My wording was also vicious in my dry and straightforward writing style, which doesn't exactly embody the sentiment of "letting it sink in slowly".
So yes, I do feel bad for sending those arguments. As someone who values another person's wellbeing at least to some degree, I could have incurred serious harm to him.
However, the point of this article is that being considerate is difficult. Being considerate means sacrifice, and that may not mean what you think it means.
The same mindset that led me to potentially damage someone's self-identity and mental health is also the one that I use to analyze and understand the world and solve problems in my work. And it is pretty effective in doing those things. I would not want to fall into the habit of doubting my thoughts before I speak them of constantly first considering other people's feelings before I say something in fear of offending someone. Not making assumptions can resolve in largely unproductive dialogue of clarifying everyone's world views, expectations, beliefs, negative emotional triggers, and passions before two people can actually talk about, well, anything. Many people humourize this concept through exaggerated comedies, such as this piece of gold.
If I try to change my mindset to become considerate without any thought, I very well may erase many of my prized traits along with them. That risk is one which I do not want to take, which is why I will not be changing any of my beliefs after this incident. Yet, there are faults in my mindset which do not line up with my values of another's wellbeing. So what is the solution?
The simple answer is that there is no perfect mindset or answer. My theory is that the relationship between a mindset's creativity and its ability to not offend anyone looks like a concave down productions possibilities curve. There is no perfect point on the graph - I just need to choose a style. Just look at some of Banksy’s artwork.
Why is the graph is concave down?
The solution to not offending someone in most cases is to not assume aspects of them, which decreases productivity because there are often so many aspects of problem-solving which must be assumed in order to isolate the target problem. The shape is concave because there is often a happy but imperfect medium.
Of course, PPCs can be shifted outwards. By utilizing pattern recognition (wow fancy term eh?), I can better intuitively recognize when to more heavily consider others' reactions and when to prioritize productiveness, which could increase my understanding of both mindsets.
By adopting this mindset of shifting the PPC outwards, I can continue to challenge ideas and thoughts through logical premises while also being more considerate of people's feelings when discussing topics that concern their wellbeing. The need to do this work to be more considerate is the premise behind this article's title. However, it's important to remember that at the end of the day, it’s someone else’s choice to be offended or not.
The only way to not offend anyone is to say nothing.