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Amy Winn

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Why is it that other people's behavior bothers us?

Today I witnessed a young mom with two small children and one on the way smoking a cigarette and it bothered me. So I am asking the question why, and does that bother you too?

We have all seen the disapproving glances that are given to someone with lots of tattoos or piercings by someone that has none. We have all seen drivers that are paying attention to anything but the road, and we shake our heads in frustration. We watch our neighbors spend money on beer when their kids have holes in their shoes, and get a knot in our stomach over it. But these issues do not involve our lives, our money or our decisions, so why do we care? Everyone says “butt out”, or “it’s not your business”, and at the same time I keep hearing that phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.”

So, folks, which is it, does it take a village, or do we mind our own business? When do we speak up and when do we stand back, and how do we control feeling torn apart when other peoples’ behavior bothers us?

Feel free to share what bothers you, whether or not you did anything about it, what exactly you did, and if you believe that it made a difference.

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    Nov 26 2013: Because it is so difficult not to judge by our morals and to believe that 'is' by what we see.

    You could not have spotted a sadistic yet non smoking mother in public if this mother 'behaved' accordingly to your basic expectations, yet was a nightmare to both of her small children at home.

    Certainly, if you have two equally nice mothers, the one smoking is damaging her children more. Yet there are so many variables under which smoking could become the smallest of the children problems.

    Nevertheless, any society, any generation within those societies has to define, correct, improve and to argue about their basic morals and norms, by which what bothers us in others got to be addressed by ourselves.

    Surprisingly, addressing this in an constructive way seems to be the most difficult to most of us. And usually the hurdle of hesitation is only crossed in anger, which in itself is not the best situation to expect positive results at the end of it. And because it takes guts to address critique in calm temper, most of our criticism we have in others is usually spread everywhere but to the one who causes it.

    When I noticed this inconsequent behavior myself, I thought about it and came up with a simple yet highly effective rule, to which I live accordingly since.

    Whenever other peoples behavior bothers me, I go up to them and address my issue and this as asap, so anger doesn't corrode deep and my temper remains controllable. When I don't have the guts to do that, than there is no reason for me to be bothered in return, as it doesn't seem to have enough significance for me to leave my comfort zone. This way, I have to blame me first, when nothing changes yet I still feel bothered, which either gets me going or keeps my finger pointing at me. So far, it works quite smoothly and stress free ... :o)

    I think it does take a village to raise children and being a smoker myself I do neither hide me smoking in front of children, nor does I smoke in closed rooms among them.
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      Nov 26 2013: Lejan, I appreciate your sharing your rule that you live by with me. You are so right in that if we do nothing, our anger can build. I love the idea of watching over one another as a community and as caring fellow human beings, but I'm just finding it difficult to find that fine line between helping and interfering. There are many that need help and would appreciate it, but are too proud to ask or embarrassed to look weak. And then there are those that would simply be insulted if we asked if they needed help. I would hate to refrain from offering help for fear of a negative reaction and miss an opportunity to reach out to someone who would welcome it. The smoking mom was only an example that sparked the idea for the question, but there are instances every day that I'm sure you also have seen where you just feel that a little caring could go a long way. I have the feeling that you would be a good person to behave in that positive direction.
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        Nov 27 2013: The questions is, Amy, whom are we really going to 'help' if our motivation to act is based on negative feelings, such as frustration? It deems to me, that our main concern then is actually ourselves and less the other person.

        The driver in front of us, who is not paying attention to the road, is slowing US down and is obviously very fine him/herself with the pace he/she is going.

        Tattoos or piercings may not resonate with our aesthetics, yet apparently do with those who wear them.

        When our neighbors kids have holes in their shoes, we don't actually care for those kids if we expect their parents do spend their money more wisely, because they obviously choose not to do that, for whatever reason.

        To me, helping others should be free of any intention and expectations, as otherwise we would already interfere in our interest. And on this we can only listen in ourselves to find the answer. And even politeness should have the same unintentional cause.

        We usually know when it is appropriate to help an old lady to cross a busy street, because our motivation to do so is not based on frustration. Yet help it is and help she may have needed.

        And if we would really care for our neighbors children, we wouldn't care for their parents, because we know those children had no say in choosing them. And what keeps us to get them a pair of new shoes every once in a while? The idea, that our money would buy their parents more beer? Well, if this is what keeps us, then those children are not of our concern at all, but an excuse to judge over the alcohol abuse of their parents. In fact, we expect them to change for us to feel better for their children.

        Quite a selfish motivation, I would think, yet easily detectable by our 'negative' emotional response, which we don't have if our help is given freely.

        A more funny example for intentional help and/or friendliness I found in many man towards pretty woman, which to me is understandable, yet less of value in its intention.
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          Nov 27 2013: Lejan, Wow, your comments are very thought provoking and I completely agree with you that help should be without strings attached and kindness should be given freely and from the heart. I truly want to keep my thoughts away from being judgmental, as I am far from perfect. My hopes with this conversation is to clarify why I get such a knot in the stomach when I see something that goes against what I have either been taught or what I grew up with as the norm. Perhaps I am just getting a little up there in age and don't understand the younger generation. Times have certainly changed since I was a kid and perhaps I am just having difficulty rolling with the changes. That could very well be the cause of the frustration that I feel on the few issues that I mentioned - which is that I did not adapt well to the changes of society. I always felt that if i did, I would be lowering my standards and giving up on trying to behave in the way that my parents and grandparents told me was proper. So I hope that you can understand that my motivation is not based on negative feelings for others, but rather my own lack of evolving with the changes of modern society.

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