“Empathy works so well because it does not require a solution. It requires only understanding.”
— John Medina
Here’s your midweek newsletter — a gentle nudge to make your week more interesting, thoughtful and productive.
On Having and Managing Better Relationships
All relationships are based on three things: personal values, expectations and respect. Values dictate what each person expects; expectations, in turn, dictate how both people act; while respect is a consequence of said action.
Irrespective of whether it is our parents or old friends or people we are meeting for the first time, there’s the idea that those three things alone will define our interactions with them. In pairs, those are the expectations that our relationship puts on both of us (owing to our value systems), and the mutual respect we have for each other to follow through with them.
Now, the problems arise when there’s a mismatch in the expected action and the action that happens from the other side. Most of the times, though, people are acting according to their own personal value system.
For example, if your friend is a punctual person, the expectation here is to always arrive on time when you’re meeting them. If you don’t do that or if you’re late, your best bet is to manage their expectations by informing them well beforehand that something is stopping you from arriving on time.
If you neither inform them nor reach on time, they will feel like their time has been wasted. If you repeat that enough, they’ll assume you to be tardy and through their own metric, reduce respect for you, and perhaps, decide you’re not worth their time at all.
On the other hand, if punctuality does not matter much to you as a value, you will not feel as if it was a big deal. Perhaps, empathy is a higher value to you than punctuality. From your perspective, you’ll lose respect for someone who fails to understand the serendipity of the everyday.
From a third-person perspective, this is a gross misunderstanding because both of you clearly seem to care about your values, and yet, both of you eventually lose respect for one another.
To have better relationships, then, is to not only behave by your own virtues but also understand that other people have different value systems based on different experiences, social and familial upbringing and other factors. If you’re too sure of your own beliefs, you fail to understand that what’s important is subjective, and you often lose out on great people.
Also, once the understanding is reached, and once you gauge a person’s value system, you should then learn to put yourself in their shoes and understand their expectations. Then, act accordingly.
And, if you’re meeting someone for the first time and are absolutely unaware of their value systems, then the rule of thumb is simple: start with zero expectations and a hundred per cent respect. Then, as the relationship develops, tweak it accordingly.
Relationships, especially the ones that are important to you, require thinking about them. If you’re living every relationship on autopilot, you’re bound to run into conflict now and then.
Conflicts are, of course, inevitable. However, a little thought goes a long way.
The Age of Information!
I tweeted about this the other day as well. However, I wanted this idea to be in the newsletter too. It is a more timeless concept. At least, for the next decade or so. We’re currently in the age of information. If you look at it closely, and if this has never hit you before, we have every piece of human wisdom from the earliest philosophers’ questions, and inquiry into humanity and nature to the important issues contemporary thought-leaders raise right at our fingertips.
Theoretically, it is possible to become an expert in multiple domains even if you just read a few pages every day. Yet, most of us are constantly looking towards the noisier sections of the internet. We’re hooked to social media, streaming services and other things that don’t offer as much value. This is not to understate the benefits of those platforms too.
However, it goes to show that we still don’t understand the power we have with this infinite scale of distribution. You can buy a book on your phone, and not just read it but listen to it. You can follow links on Wikipedia to get a holistic knowledge about anything that interests you. Wikipedia, in itself, is a testament to willful human collaboration.
There’s no one point to this section but to sensitive you towards the sheer opportunity to learn that we have at our hands. It would be a waste if every person who has access to the internet were not using it. Every half-assed opinion can be fact-checked; every little belief can be thwarted; all it requires is some freedom of thought and a will to Google.
These are unprecedented times. We’ve never had this much knowledge at our disposal before.
Reading List: The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish
“You can’t improve if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”
I’m surprised that I’ve not shared this book yet. In fact, these are two books now. Shane Parrish’s website called Farnam Street is filled with the idea of mental models which are heuristics borrowed from all disciplines that aid you in thinking clearly. If you’ve read the post about philosophical razors on Nudge, those are mental models.
These books, if you spend enough time on them, will change how you think and perceive everyday situations. The more mental models you have handy, the better you can judge each situation to work in your favour or the better you can deal with it.
The best part, in my opinion, is that you already know most of those concepts but you’ve just never applied them to thought until you read them as mental models.
Quick Update On Nudge › How
I wrote about the idea of fitness last week. Specifically, I talked about how fitness was not one specific thing but that it was up to us to find what it meant to our context and our lives. Fitness is different for each person, and in the article, I’ve shared how to find your own definition of fitness through experimentation. You can read it here.
Also, I’m working on an electronic store for Nudge along with some ideation for physical products down the line. If you have any ideas or if there’s something specific you had in mind, feel free to reply to this email. The idea is to put things that people want which would help keep the platform up long-term. That’s the intention.
I hope this added some value to your week. Stay safe, stay inspired, and I’ll talk to you next week.