Inside, outside, upside down.

"Friendship", a creative commons photo by Fabrizio Lonzini

“Friendship”, a creative commons photo by Fabrizio Lonzini

When trying to figure out how a person will treat you in any given situation, which do you think most impacts your assumptions?

1. How other people have treated you in similar situations.
2. How you have treated other people (including the person in question) in similar situations.
3. How the person in question has treated you in similar situations.
4. How the person in question has treated other people in similar situations.

I realized recently that I mostly do the first of these four, with maybe overlaying hints of the second. But I don’t always think of the third and it rarely occurs to me to think about the fourth, even though those are probably the most relevant data points!

I’m putting this up as a mini-post and a place-holder, because I want to pull this apart some more with folks.

4 thoughts on “Inside, outside, upside down.

  1. I would hope one would consider a body of work. Perhaps someone has let you down on occasion but has been mostly been supportive, even essential to your well being, many times. Maybe they currently have issues you know nothing about that have affected them. Or perhaps they didn’t realise they had offended or mistreated you on certain occasions because their perceptions differ from yours. I hope the person would get a bit of slack. But if you feel that they have become toxic to you then you must do what is best for yourself.

  2. I THINK I’m mostly about 3. For example at work I have to navigate a lot of bosses. I treat each one differently depending on how they have treated me in the past. Re 4: I also work quite fine with difficult people who aren’t nice to other people, I think because I have high bully invincibility due to my childhood. I let 2 creep in as well. My behaviour toward someone I have wronged is probably worse than my average behaviour and I think that’s shameful. To the extent that I do #1 I think it’s mostly positive….I bumble along assuming everyone is cordial with me until proven otherwise.

  3. I am all about number 4. I think that’s a survival mechanism developed by people who grew up with a lot of instability, we tend to watch carefully for the signs of the explosion about to come. It’s very much like that old saying that when you are on a first date, you should watch how they treat the waiter, because in a year’s time that’s how they’ll be treating you.

    It sounds very suspicious and utilitarian when I write it out like that, but it actually smooths my relationships with people because I get plenty of warning of their strengths and weaknesses. I have friends who are the best people I know for emotional support but I don’t lend them money. Friends who can’t keep a secret to save their lives, but are generous to a fault. Friends who will be late to their own funeral (so bring a book) but will drop everything to help out in an emergency. And aquaintances who are fun to hang out with but I keep them at a gentle emotional arms length because I have seen them blow up so many friendships.

  4. The Order of My Assumptions

    3. How the person in question has treated you in similar situations.

    This is where judgement and experience comes in. It will reinforce or challenge existing boundaries and it is a matter of knowing, beyond temperament issues, if the person is being their true, authentic self. We all struggle with stuff internally but blaming you or lashing out versus communicating needs or apologizing for mistakes is all it takes to get things back on track. Or at least, accepting the changes and moving on together or with some distance.

    4. How the person in question has treated other people in similar situations.

    If I don’t know them very well, their treatment of others will help me better understand how they navigate relationships. This observing would help work towards establishing a relationship. But if the behaviour is inconsistent, I would have to question integrity and honesty. If the person wears many masks for many situations and the root cause is low self-esteem, walking on egg shells, or manipulation, how can you ever believe or trust their motives?

    2. How you have treated other people (including the person in question) in similar situations.

    This says more about my true self then the one I project through resolutions and my dreams and aspirations. I have to either be OK with my actions or, when I misstep, acknowledge how and why I went astray before it becomes the new norm. This is how I come up with a rough idea of my “default”, or at least, more predictable version of my self. If I am self-aware and not operating in a blind spot, it shouldn’t lead to repression and cognitive dissonance. If the relationship is worth maintaining and depending on reactions, I can slightly adjust if my actions need tempering based on a specific person’s needs (triggers and boundaries) without feeling like a fraud or faker.

    1. How other people have treated you in similar situations.

    There are social norms, but this diminishes the individuals and their various backgrounds and experiences. This is definitely how you build up expectations of treatment, but it also messes with you because just because you were treated poorly in the past doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to have your needs met. If someone new piles on it might because they they see you taking it or others doing it. You have to have some agency to break these cycles.

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