You’re hurrying across campus. A guy and a girl you know are coming the other way. You start to say hi, but they’re so involved in their conversation they don’t even notice you. In fact, they don’t even move aside to let you pass! You’re the one who has to move off the narrow sidewalk as they continue on.
You feel hurt and insulted, disrespected and left out. Later you learn that the girl had just received some bad news from home—her little sister is very ill. The guy was listening sympathetically. You’ve jumped to conclusions.
This kind of mistake can happen when you’re in a bad mood. The mood makes you mistakenly think that others are insulting you, taking advantage of you or hurting you in some way. Maybe you’ve felt rejected by others so often lately that people seem out to get you, even when they’re not.
Do any of the following describe you? If so, you might be too sensitive and too prone to make false assumptions about people’s intentions towards you.
1. You’re often in an angry mood, ready to blow up at someone.
2. The more you are around people, the more you feel angry and resentful.
3. You find yourself constantly watching for people who may be out to hurt you.
4. You often feel insulted and disrespected by people.
5. You think that people, even your friends, can’t really be trusted and are just out for themselves.
6. Life has felt unfair a lot lately.
7. People are often telling you, “You’re just being paranoid.”
What should you do when you feel someone is against you and you’re about to tell them off?
1. Walk away from the person. It’s better to walk away and take some time to cool off. You may later regret blowing up.
2. Take time to calm down and think about what happened.
3. Ask yourself if you really have enough evidence. Are you positive that the person was trying to take advantage of you, or actually insulted you or spread rumors about you? What actual behaviors did you witness that made you reach your conclusions?
4. Consider that you might have made a mistake and explore alternate explanations for the behavior. Was there any way you might have read the signs wrong or not seen the whole picture? Maybe the person’s behavior had nothing to do with you. Maybe he or she was preoccupied or worried about something else. For example, if a cashier serves a customer before you when you were waiting longer, maybe she just wasn’t paying attention and not out to disrespect you.
5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How do you think the other person would explain his or her behavior? How is he or she feeling, and what’s going on in his or her life? Imagining another person’s point of view may help you think of alternatives to your conclusions.
6. Write it down. On a piece of paper or your computer, write out the situation from your point of view, then from the other person’s point of view. Then try to describe it from an observer’s viewpoint. You’ll be amazed at how many different ways people can see the same situation.
7. Remember the good times. If the person is your friend has he or she been helpful and supportive? Do those positive experiences outweigh this one possibly negative interaction?
8. Consider the pros and cons. Make a list of your friend’s positive and negative qualities, and then make another list of your own. Are both lists equally long and complex, like those of most people? Maybe the person who seemed to treat you badly was just being human.
Now that you’ve questioned your assumptions about whether or not this person really had bad intentions toward you, do you still want to tell him off? If you do, check out our many tips in other articles for handling situations like this.
If you just can’t seem to break out of the pattern of thinking that everyone has it in for you, think about getting some help. Talk to a counselor, a family member, someone on the faculty you trust or a friend.