what you see is what you believe, and what you have done

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You’ve prob­a­bly heard the story about the old fellow sit­ting on his porch on the edge of his home­town who is approached by two sep­a­rate indi­vid­u­als at two sep­a­rate times. The first indi­vid­ual pulls up, gets out of his car, and asks the old man, “I’m think­ing of moving into town and I was won­der­ing what kind of people live here?” The old man replies, “Well, what kind of people lived in your old town?” “They were rude and obnox­ious. Every­one was only con­cerned with them­selves. No one cared about get­ting to know their neigh­bor.” “Well,” says the old man, “I’m afraid you’ll find exactly the same kind of folks here.” Later that day the second indi­vid­ual pulls up, gets out of his car, and asks the old man the same ques­tion: “What kind of people live here?” “Well, what kind of people lived in your old town?” “They were pleas­ant and friendly. Every­one looked out for their neigh­bor. It was a really great place to live.” “I’m happy to say you’ll find exactly the same kind of folks here,” says the old man.

The bottom line of the story above, as I under­stand, is what you see is what you believe. But then I also thought it might be a step even fur­ther – what you see is what you have done.

Dog train­ing and human train­ing are pretty much the same. What you get in gen­eral is what you’ve trained others to give you. Like, if you reward your dog when it does some­thing, it’s going to do that more. That may be kind of reward/punishing mech­a­nism going on there.

In the exam­ple above, guy A said “They were rude and obnox­ious. Every­one was only con­cerned with them­selves. No one cared about get­ting to know their neigh­bor.” Would it be pos­si­ble that it’s him that didn’t go out to get to know his neigh­bor? Maybe his neigh­bor was not ini­tially open or hyper­ac­tive, but did you think he proac­tively went out to meet his neigh­bor? What most likely hap­pened was he saw his neigh­bor “looked kind of unfriendly”, and he gave a “kind of unfriendly look” in return. It all ends up in a bad loop.

Now per­haps that sounds like some seri­ous common sense there but I’d say a lot of people don’t seem to fully under­stand how this works, from what they’re doing. Most people can’t really express what they’re really think­ing. Let’s say they got treated shit from their boss from work, typ­i­cally they wouldn’t do any­thing about it on the spot but they’d bad­mouth the boss at the back later.

From the boss’s per­spec­tive, the employ­ees responded well to that kind of behav­ior, so he’d keep doing it. Now sure, if the employee stood up for him­self he prob­a­bly wouldn’t get very good treat­ment right away, but there’s no deny­ing that it would have “taught the boss a lesson”, no matter how small.

People “reward” other people’s bad behav­ior when they are afraid of the con­se­quences of stand­ing up for them­selves. At other times, how­ever, most people neglect to reward others’ good behav­iors. When people do some­thing to cross us, we’ll blame them imme­di­ately (if it doesn’t seem to have any imme­di­ate bad effects to us).  Now let’s say if you get some good treat­ments from some­one, most people would usu­ally not give too much about it but a con­trived thank you.

Why care about all this stuff? All the title sug­gests, what you see is what you have done. So the bottom line is, if you want people to respond well to you, maybe the very thing you can start con­sid­er­ing right now is to change the way you respond to other people.

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