You don’t want to be that person

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Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

These days we’re living and working closer together than ever. Therefore we all need to make an effort to get along. So don’t be that person who’s inconsiderate to others. On the other hand, be aware of the potential for exploitation if you’re too caring.

It’s about fairness and respect

How can we make sure we’re not the person who annoys everyone else with inconsiderate behaviour? Often it comes down to the issues of fairness and respect.  

Many people who talk about fairness are oblivious of their own behaviour. They want to be treated with respect themselves, but impose on others.

Do you think you treat others with respect? Are you willing to fix whatever problems you cause?

Or do you leave behind a trail of hassles for others to cope with? Do you just assume others will pick up the slack, if you don’t finish what you should? 

If this is you, don’t be that person any more. Act with integrity and do what you know is right.

Sure, it’s inconvenient. You might not like cleaning up after yourself, or finishing chores. But what makes you think anyone else likes it either? And there’s a bonus; employers want people who do their fair share.

It’s the little things

It’s often the little things that send us into a rage. Like finding the petrol tank empty in the share car. Or the office printer jammed. It’s infuriating to be on the receiving end of these hassles. Do you know how other people feel about these problems that you leave for them to deal with? 

Why are some people inconsiderate?

Some people are definitely more inconsiderate than others. Is it because they can’t be bothered to fix the issue? Or they think someone else can do it? Perhaps they don’t even notice they’ve messed up. 

Perhaps they don’t have the time or skills to deal with it. Maybe they’re embarrassed to ask for help, or to own up to a mistake. Or they think they can get away with it.

But the thing is, everyone knows who they are. Petty annoyances like that don’t go unnoticed.

Annoyances add up over time

This behaviour can be seen as showing scorn for others. It says the culprit thinks their own time is more important than anyone else’s. And they don’t care if others have to clean up problems they caused.

Even if that’s not what the culprit really thinks, it’s how others interpret their behaviour.

So is this what you do?

You may not deliberately impose on others. But others may not understand that, especially if it happens time and time again. 

People resent being treated as conveniences.

You might think that it’s not such a big deal. These are trivial little things, not worth worrying about. And if others are silly enough to fix your mistakes, that’s their problem.

But don’t be that person. Chances are if you act like this, you’ve earned a reputation. 

And it won’t be a good one

People may not say anything to your face. But they’ll say plenty behind your back. They’ll think you don’t have much empathy for others. You may be seen as lazy and inconsiderate. 

You’ll be seen as entitled

You may even be seen as entitled and arrogant. In other words, you’re giving the impression that others exist to make life easy for you.

Now this may not be true. You may not intend to put others out. But this might be the perception that others have of your behaviour.

And sure, everyone forgets to wash their coffee cup or fix the printer – occasionally. It only becomes a problem when you regularly take advantage of others.

So don’t be that person who exploits the goodwill of others, either at home or at work. Otherwise, they’ll soon be reluctant to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Take responsibility

Take responsibility for your behaviour. That means leaving things as you find them, or better if possible. Make sure you fix any hassles you cause, or ask for help if you can’t. If it can’t be fixed right away, let others know so they can plan around it. 

But don’t just walk away and hope that no-one will know it was you. Because they’ll find out eventually. And their resentment will fester and poison your relationships.

Being more considerate will make share living or working more rewarding. You’ll feel better about yourself, and will gain the goodwill of others.

And there’s a bonus

Employers rate soft people skills very highly when interviewing job applicants. They want workers who can be team players. People who are empathic and understand other people’s viewpoints. People who may be ambitious, but also help others reach their goals. People who pull their own weight, and don’t claim others’ work as their own. 

These prosocial qualities reduce conflict. This means everyone cooperates better, and the group is more productive. 

So employers look for workers who can empathise, and get along in difficult situations. And who can treat others with respect and integrity.

If you don’t know how others see your behaviour, how can you understand their views on complex issues? Learning to be considerate in small ways will increase your empathy for others.

Practise being empathic

You can actually teach yourself to be more empathic towards others. 

To increase your empathy, imagine various small issues that commonly arise. Firstly, think how you’d react. And then imagine how others might think and feel in the same situations. 

For example, if you had a deadline to finish a report, you’d probably be annoyed or stressed at an empty paper tray in the office printer. And similarly, if you had to make an urgent home visit to a client, you’d be annoyed if there was no petrol in the fleet car. 

So that’s probably how others would feel too.

Now imagine they’re feeling ill, or they’ve just had bad news and need to get away quickly. How would they feel if they couldn’t get their work done, because they have to fix a problem you’d left? 

Don’t be that person with little empathy for what others are going through. Take the time to notice what’s going on in their world. 

Be aware of others’ reactions

That means being aware of others’ reactions.

Now translate that awareness to bigger issues within the home or office. See if you can work out how others are reacting to a problem. You may not be 100% certain about your thoughts, but have a try.

For example, imagine you have to tell office staff about a major change in their routine. Can you predict how different people will react? What could make some, but not others, resist change? Do they seem scared of losing out in some way, or of having their weaknesses exposed? Are they annoyed at yet another change to their already packed schedule? 

Once you have a few ideas, you could then see if you’re on the right track. To take everyone’s concerns into account, you could tactfully check out your ideas with staff. That would help develop a solution you’re all happy with. But being able to do this means you’re willing to see things from another point of view.

So don’t be that person who ignores what others need or want. Practise seeing life from different perspectives. Imagine how you’d feel in the position of those who seem to be struggling. Then think how you could help, rather than leaving more problems in their path. 

What about the flipside?

What if you’re the one who is conscientious and empathic? You always go the extra mile to help others, and smooth over any unpleasantness. You focus on not letting anyone down, rather than on your own concerns. So you pick up the hackwork tasks that others refuse.

This may not be in your best interests

The problem is that this might not be good for your future work prospects.

Others who focus on what’s good for their own careers will forge ahead, while you’re stuck doing the trivial tasks they don’t want.

On the home front, you’ll get stuck with the boring, unpleasant tasks that no-one else wants to do.

Either way, everyone’s soon taking you for granted, assuming you’re happy with the situation.

Step back and set limits

If you do more than you should at work or at home, take a step back. You’d benefit from learning to set limits more assertively.

Remember, you’re not responsible for everyone else’s welfare. Don’t be that person who gets dumped on all the time because others can’t be bothered.  

You have a responsibility to care for yourself first. Others have a responsibility to care for themselves. You’re not there to be used as a convenience. Work out what you are and are not prepared to do for them.

Otherwise you’ll burn out. Then you won’t be able to help anyone.

Prevent burnout

You can prevent this sort of burnout in a number of ways. 

Teach others the skills they lack, so they don’t keep asking for help. Or suggest where they can get extra assistance if they need more support.

If someone asks you to do a task that’s really their responsibility, think very carefully before you agree. If you know they’re passing it on to you because it’s boring or won’t further their career, tell them your own work is taking up all your time.

Don’t be a slave for others

At home, show teenagers how to cook and wash their own clothes. Gradually give them more responsibility for their own lives – in small doses that are appropriate for their age. They’ll make mistakes, but you can help them learn to fix them too. It’s better for them to make small mistakes now, instead of big ones later because of a lack of experience.

So stop allowing others to take advantage of your desire to please and placate them. Expect them to take responsibility for themselves.

NB: Do you feel compelled to take responsibility for everyone else? What function does this serve for you? Do you blame yourself when things go wrong? 

Remember, you’ll be totally ineffective if you burn out.

Take stock before that happens

So there are two sides to the coin. One side is making sure you don’t take advantage of others.

The flipside is making sure you’re not being taken advantage of. Either way, don’t be that person!

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