As well as being one of the cornerstones of #1PMChat, Hilary Sims is a Registered Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and an Accredited Member of the National Counselling Society (NCS). Here, Hilary gives her insight into something that many of us are familiar with...
Do you worry about getting involved in social situations or taking part in education discussions because you worry about what others might think of you?
How do you know what other people are thinking? We can see their body language, facial expressions and even hear the tone of their voice when they speak, but does this really tell us what they are thinking? We are interpreting their reactions from our own point of reference. For example, if someone shouts a reply at me, that doesn’t mean they are angry at me or even the current situation. Their anger could have been triggered by a previous event but you are the person they vent at.
If you try to work out what this person is thinking you might think:
- They are angry because of something I have done
- They are angry, that means they don’t like me
- I shouldn’t have said that, they wouldn’t have been angry
How do you draw this conclusion? What does this do to how you feel about yourself?
Is there an alternative way of looking at this situation?
You draw the conclusion because you think this person would not have been angry if you hadn’t spoken to them. When in fact, they could be angry because their car has broken down on the way to the event, they could have broken something, lots of reasons to be angry that are nothing to do with you or this current situation. You are jumping to conclusions and trying to mind read the situation. Not only are you trying to mind read the situation, you are turning it into a negative about yourself.
You believe their anger was created because of something you have done, not because of another situation which you are totally unaware of and not responsible for. If you draw the conclusion that someone is angry because of something you have said or done, this will lower your self esteem. You are personalising the situation and making someone else’s actions about you. Does it mean, every time “someone is angry near me, it is because of me?”
Whose are these thoughts really? As the only true way to find out how someone else is feeling is to ask them, these thoughts are coming from inside of you. Why do you think you made that person angry? Is there an alternative way to view this situation?
Let’s look at a situation. You met Paul at the pre-meeting drinks, you said hello to him and before you knew it, he was raising his voice. When he raised his voice, how did you feel? Shocked? Scared?Worried? Why were you worried? You thought you had made him angry, but how could you have made him angry by just saying, hello?
Thinking about it rationally you can’t make someone angry just by saying hello!
There are two ways of looking at this, you spoke to him, which made him angry, or you spoke to him but he was already angry because of a previous situation. Where is the evidence to prove that he was angry because you spoke to him? Those thoughts all come from inside you. What was it at that moment that made you feel like this? The answer to this is probably, nothing, you always feel like this.
The next time you are in a situation where you worry about what someone else is thinking, ask yourself, what is it about this situation that makes me feel like this? Is it the situation, is it what someone has said, or is it your own thoughts. Write your findings down and see if there is a pattern to this type of thinking. If there is, ask yourself, “why do I do this, why do I place more importance on what other people are thinking rather than focussing on how I feel?”