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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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    Dec 1 2013: I like this quote from Hermann Hesse:

    “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us.”
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      Dec 2 2013: It's interesting. I think it may be kinda culture difference. I never experienced it. For example, people's smoking bothers me a lot, but I never think I will smoke in any circumstances. And some people like quarrelling loudly about something I even don't notice at all which also often bothers me , but I never feel it's comfortable for me to do that.
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        Dec 2 2013: Perhaps, the quote is not true in all circumstances. I think, it takes a certain amount of self-reflection to appreciate it. I noticed that when I'm frustrated that my teenage son did not take out garbage as he was told, it's becauese I don't like to do it myself and I don't always do what I have to do, but do not like to.
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          Dec 2 2013: Thank you for your example and explanation. This is also new to me. In this case I'd like to think that because your son's behavior has spoiled your expectation(thinking) and your feelings to some extent has been hurt, you felt bothered by your son's laziness. If I think that I also have this kind of laziness even if I'm a father, I won't feel bothered, instead of which I would ( I won't tell him) think in my heart he has the right not to do it(it's natural)because I don't like to do either, sometimes even feel a little sarcastic about the fact that my son really takes after me. But if I think I do what I should do even I don't like to, I will feel my son should get rid of his bad habit and I will be strict with him. Still I feel this is a cultural difference . Thank you for sharing your thinking with me.
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          Dec 2 2013: As a result, if I have to take out the garbage by myself instead of my son meanwhile I feel bothered, I think I am bothered by the remaining garbage not my son's behavior.
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        Dec 2 2013: I have your same experience, Yoka. Sometimes it may be a part of yourself. Sometimes, as a second example, the behavior may remind you of a trauma to which you were subjected.

        A simple case to which many might relate is many people's real aversion to seeing or hearing of a child beaten or abused by an adult. This widespread reaction does not stem, I think, from the person's deep subconscious desire to beat children.
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        Dec 2 2013: Yoka,

        Thanks for the response. This is very interesting to me. Your profile indicates that you are from China. I've been to China (Shenzen) 6 years ago. I have noticed huge cultural differences with the U.S. It appeared to me that in China people are aware of each other much more than in the U.S. and a lot more tolerant towards each others behavior. E.g. traffic is crazy. People cut into lanes in front of each other all the time. It is not uncommon to see pedestrians crossing streets in the middle of busy traffic; or people walking between lanes on intersections selling stuff to drivers stopped at traffic lights; or cars driving on the road shoulder AGAINST the traffic. In the U.S., if people cut into a lane in front of another car like that, there would be annoyed honking, fingers shown through the windshield, etc. In China I've seen drivers react very calmly. Nobody is annoyed or outraged. If people honked, it was to attract attention (like saying "watch out, I'm here"), not to express irritation at other's behaviour. Have you been to the U.S.? Do you think, it's a correct observation? So, it seems to me that Asian people and Westerners are bothered by very different things.
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          Dec 3 2013: Hi, Arkady,

          You are absolutely right in the observation in the traffic scenarios in China~! Although I'm not in Shenzhen, I feel it's the same in Shanghai or other big cities. And sometimes I also run the red light when I see no cars passing by and people are all walking across the road. I don't have the feeling that I've bothered by this behavior because I also do it.:) (with shame) I know it's not right but sometimes it really provides me convenience to catch my buses when I'm in a hurry. I know safety is most important. People shouldn't run the red light when there're cars passing by.So I'm against running the red light but don't obey it sometimes.And it's said Chinese drivers are probably the most well experienced and patient drivers in the world~!:)

          And I think of another scenario that I'm on a bus and anxious to get to my destination right now,but the bus suddenly stops because a guy is rushing across the red light ahead of my bus and makes the driver brake. At that time, I think I'll feel bothered by the guy's behavior because his behavior has gone against my expectation.So I think what I focus on is the "the present progressive tense", and what you focus on may be "the simple present tense--- something about human nature."

          I haven't studied abroad and been to the USA yet. But I'll be glad to find all kinds of cultural differences to think more and learn more ways of thinking if I can travel to more places. Thank you for elaborating your thinking for me. And I'm not a parent, so I'm not qualified to comment your way of educating your children. I think Chinese people always admire American ways of instructing children to be more independent and creative.

          Thank you again!
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        Dec 2 2013: Now, back to children. I know, there are cultural differences in attitudes towards child rearing between Asia, U.S., and Russia (I grew up in the Soviet Union). I've seen and read about Chinese parents being very strict with their children demanding from them to excel in all areas - school, sports, or music. (http://amychua.com)

        So, when I tell my son to do a chore and he does not do it, I don't think, I'm bothered by the garbage can or the dirty dishes. When I'm bothered by the garbage can, I just take it out myself - it's a 3-minute job. What bothers me is a) disrespect towards me; b) lack of responsibility - I'm not even supposed to tell him take out the garbage. He knows, it's his responsibility. It has been for many years.

        I have noticed that it only takes a closer look into the mirror to understand behaviors of our children. I remember, as a teenager, I was very upset when my parents told me that I will do as they say as long as I live in their house. Now I tell the same to my son. When my sons "talk back" to me, they tend to use the exact same language as I use towards them. When I see my kids not putting away their toys or not being able to find their homework, it only takes a look at the pile of unsorted mail on the kitchen counter or a pile of unsorted clean laundry on the couch or see my wife searching for the keys to understand why they don't do it. So, when I'm annoyed at the lack of discipline in my children, I feel that I'm annoyed at my own lack of discipline.

        When my wife and I focus ourselves on getting things done around the house, other things get out of hands - homeworks not getting done, music not practiced, mischief going on around the house. But while we focus on getting the kids do the homework, put away toys, and practice music, the mail stays on the counter and the laundry stays on the couch.

        Such is life. Perhaps, these issues become very obvious when kids outnumber parents. With 1 or 2 kids, experience may be different
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          Dec 3 2013: I can understand your feeling, because they're your children, otherwise you won't feel bothered. And they may have different thinkings from yours about the result to not having done the chores : a) disrespect towards you; b) lack of responsibility. Just like some normal situations you described in your family.:)
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          Dec 3 2013: @Arkady:
          I think you are a good father :) I think it is simply because you are honest.
          I have one son, so numerically we parents have a numerical supremacy over him (though I have this suspicion that his mother secretly collaborates with him against me, haha). But it is no relief.
          My son challenges every rule, norm, discipline or ideas of his father. He makes it plain that he just obeys because he is not financially independent. I have come to terms with it, because,that is exactly how I was with my father.
          I could only appeal to my son (and I started doing it since he was 16, he is 18 now) by showing a very non-fatherly side of me to him. A side of a regular, confused, not so brilliant, not so sure person trying to do his job. It's an appeal based on the feeling that we are like a team and I need his help.
          I hope your kids will fare better when they grow up a little more. Meanwhile just keep on loving them. :)
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      Dec 7 2013: Arkady, good quote although I prefer the short version "YOU SPOT IT, YOU GOT IT". The spotlight that recognizes what is tranquil and undisturbed as well. The way of Good Orderly Direction. You say nothing, I say something, same thing.

      "I hurt myself today,
      To see if I'd still feel.
      I focus on the pain,
      The only thing that's real."

      When I am in it pain appears real. In hindsight it didn't last but a fleeting moment. Perhaps what is real stands the test of time and lasts.

      Is there Love and Mercy without pain? What else is left but Grace?

      A gift for you. Highest Regards, Larry

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