It is fundamentally true that we humans are social animals. None of us get through life without having to interact with other people. Although the advent of the internet and other creature comforts in our modern world have somewhat lessened the importance of social intelligence, it is still in each of our best interests to at least develop the rudiments of this basic life skill to get by in this world.
To a certain extent, humanity has recognized the importance of social intelligence and taken steps to infuse it into each generation. This is one of the reasons why we have schools and local sports teams which indirectly provide an immersion in the subject of human interaction throughout our youth. While these strategies for teaching people social intelligence are far better than nothing, they rarely expose us to the underlying nature of human beings because they are buffered by authority figures who do their best to uphold “justice”. As a result of this quirk in the system, many of us grow into adulthood with a ridiculously naive view of human nature and how the world really works. We may grow up thinking that good people are always rewarded and bad people are always punished, or that striving to be good people guarantees that only good things will happen to us. Suffice it to say that with the accumulation of enough experience, each of us will at some point be rudely awakened to the painful realization that these types of idealistic views are often a trailer load of bollocks.
The truth is that while we all experience things of beauty and grace in our lives, many of us also deal with an equal or greater dose of ugliness regardless of how good or bad we are. In this article, we will focus on one of the potential sources of ugliness in each of our lives… the people around us. It should be noted here that the rest of this article is in no way intended to scare you. Rather, its main purpose is to shed light on what one of my favorite authors – Robert Greene – refers to as the seven deadly realities of human nature. In mastering the dynamics of these “deadly realities”, you will be less prone to making the naive mistakes that can complicate your dealings with other people. OK I’ll stop all the “meta talk” now so that we can get down to business.
Deadly reality #1: Envy
Deadly reality #2: Conformism
Deadly reality #3: Rigidity
Deadly reality #4: Self-obsessiveness
Deadly reality #5: Laziness
Deadly reality #6: Flightiness
Deadly reality #7: Passive Aggression
Almost all of us have a bit of a jealous streak. When we see someone who has what we want, we can’t help but wish we were in their position. This sensation of jealously is usually just a fleeting one for most people. However, there are some people in which this sensation of jealousy is seriously amplified. These types cannot stand to see other people succeed so they try to find ways to obstruct or at least delay the success of others. This can be very confusing when it happens to you because these types will never openly admit to being jealous. Rather, they’ll find some other more “socially acceptable” way to harm you.
Defense: The first step in effectively defending yourself against jealous people, is to realize that the root cause of a jealous spirit is deep insecurity. If your current life circumstances place you around someone like this, try to purposefully make a few harmless but public mistakes to show that you aren’t perfect. You can also take an interest in a piece of their work and ask them questions to which you’re pretty sure they’ll already know the answer to. This will usually disarm such folks of any jealousy they may have towards you. You should note however, that there are a few insanely jealous people who will be dead set on trying to destroy you regardless of how accommodating you are. It is best to learn to spot these types well in advance and avoid them if you can. If you can’t do that, you must work to develop enough personal power within yourself to ensure that they cannot harm you no matter how hard they try.
Our natural tendency as humans is to conform to societal norms. This actually makes sense if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective. It isn’t really a far stretch of the imagination to realize that being rejected by your tribe because you failed to conform in ancient times would have made you instantly vulnerable to lethal attacks from rival tribes or the neighborhood saber tooth tiger. Even though we don’t really have any more “sabre tooth tigers” running loose in our cities today, there are still people around us. Some of these people will go to great lengths to ensure that you don’t do anything that threatens their status quo regardless of how hopelessly outdated that status quo is.
Defense: Those who seek to constantly improve themselves are often non conformist by nature. If you fall in this bracket, you must protect yourself from the energy of conformism that will no doubt surround you as you strive to reach your goals. One of the best ways to do this is to make a public show of supporting all the “right” initiatives and viewpoints when you are in the presence of other people. When you are on your own however, you should think, act, create, and invent as you please.
I have seen this in so many different avenues of life where otherwise brilliant people will resist change in spite of solid evidence that advises it as the best course of action. A perfect contemporary example of this is how difficult it is for an employee to implement a project that significantly deviates from the existing knowledge base of the corporation he/she works for even if that change has a huge upside. I don’t know why, but resisting change seems to be a fundamental part of human nature which is silly when you think logically about it because change is maybe the only guaranteed thing in life.
Defense: The best defense here is to avoid rigid people and situations. If you can’t do that, the second best strategy is to accept rigidity in others as just a part of life, and outwardly display deference to other people’s need for order. If you play this game well and for long enough, you will eventually gain the power to obliterate the rigid/idiotic rules and customs that have hindered you in the past.
Whether you and I want to admit it or not, people can be super selfish. Some of us are so selfish that it is almost impossible for us to see life through the lens of another. Even though all of us are selfish to a certain extent, many of us are still shocked and offended when someone does or says something hurtful to us. Sorry to be the bad guy here, but it is pretty naive (and selfish) to expect that everyone will be interested in seeing you succeed or helping you to achieve your goals… that’s just not realistic.
Defense: The defense to the selfishness of others is self reliance. When you prepare to execute a task or a project, don’t expect help from others. Assume you have to do most of it yourself and prepare for that magnitude of work/effort. If people do show up to help you, then you can graciously accept their support. If they don’t however (which is the more likely scenario), you won’t be disappointed.
Innate human laziness is something a lot of us are probably very familiar with. It is much easier to sit on the couch and watch a “Game of thrones” marathon than it is to go for a lung bursting swim session. Although laziness is common to pretty much all of us, there are some folks who have a seriously lazy streak. These types want all the perks that come with hard work, but they don’t really want to work hard. As a result, these types are always on the lookout for shortcuts. An example of this would be a person in the workforce who waits for a project to show signs of inevitable success before rushing in at the last minute when all the hard work is already done to gain partial credit.
Defense: Your best defense here is your prudence. If you are considering a project, be sure that you secure your full credit for it before any work starts at all. Make whoever is commissioning the work sign this in blood if you have to. Knowing the lazy types, a written contract isn’t likely to completely deter them so you must be willing to report anyone who interferes with your work to the proper authorities who can mete out the appropriate punishment. If such an authority figure does not exist, you are probably in the wrong place.
This one is perhaps the least severe of all the seven deadly realities listed here. Each of us probably know at least one person who is like this… perpetually late, seems to change their mind on a whim, and just generally unreliable. One day, they might completely love your project and offer to help you see it through. You might get excited by this show of support only to be deflated the next day when they do a complete 180 on their previous show of support.
Defense: The key here is to realize that flighty people are mostly governed by their emotions and they will respond to you in the moment based largely on how they feel. The best defense here is to pay more attention to what people do on a regular basis rather than what they say. Also, have a bias towards self reliance for your self esteem and your work. If someone shows up to help you, then great. If not, you’ve still got the energy and drive to get through.
Most of us are so uncomfortable with direct confrontation that we will do almost anything to avoid it. In addition to this innate human discomfort with confrontational situations, our modern society also actively discourages confrontation. As a result of all this, we’ve become expert “liars” who are frighteningly good at concealing our true emotions and intentions. Some of us smile when we really want to strangle someone, or we talk in code to avoid calling out the blatant truth for fear of a negative reaction. If you have ever felt wronged by someone, but can’t quite put your finger on it and at the same time, you’ve felt guilty about calling them out on it, you have very likely experienced a passive aggressive attack.
Defense: Pay no attention to what these types of people say. Force yourself to use cold hard logic/reason in analyzing situations that involve passive aggressive people. If you are a reasonable person most of the time and you feel hard done by, you are probably correct and must take action. You can either respond to their passive aggressive attacks with something equally subtle which signals that messing with you will come with a price, or you can spot these types well in advance and steer clear.
The best way I’ve found to mentally deal with these deadly realities is to completely and radically accept them as part of human nature… at least until you become powerful enough where this stuff no longer matters. The truth is that many of us have a lot of these quirks in our own personalities to varying extents as well. We all have our moments of flightiness, jealousy, and just outright stupidity so please try to remember this when dealing with our brothers and sisters who drive you crazy. I’m not at all advocating that you tolerate ridiculous behavior from anyone. Rather, accepting these ugly parts of human nature will help you conserve the emotional energy that you will need to untangle yourself from the very unfavorable scenarios that drag us down. From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org, take care of yourselves and each other.
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
Check out some art on the ETSY store!