Stop Trying to Figure out Other People’s Behavior

I’m always trying to figure out the reason for other people’s behavior. Not everyone’s behavior, of course. I only do this in my relationships, and I only do it for behavior I don’t like.

I think, “If I can figure out the reason, I can fix the problem.” Then, the wheels start spinning in my brain as I analyze myriad possibilities for the most likely probability. If you’re wondering why I don’t just ask them directly, I’ll give you two reasons:

  1. Confrontation isn’t fun.
  2. Most people don’t know why.

Since I don’t want to ask, and they won’t have an answer anyway, obsessive speculation always seemed the best course of action. The problem is, it’s not exactly working. In fact, trying to figure out the reason for other people’s behavior isn’t resolving anything.

Introspection has long been my strong suit. However, it’s one thing to investigate the reasons for my own behavior. It’s a totally different thing to try to unearth the reasons for someone else’s. I guess that’s why “outrospection” isn’t a word. It’s not in the dictionary because you’re not supposed to do it.

Therefore, effective immediately, I’m changing my ways. Gone are the days of racking my brain trying to figure people out. Instead of wondering why I’m seeing a certain behavior, I’m only going to note that I’m seeing it.

“I’m noticing you no longer have eyebrows.”

“I’m noticing the bowling shoes I loaned you are caked with mud.”

“I’m noticing I don’t receive the same consideration and respect I give you.”

Why people do what they do is for them to analyze, not me. My job is to simply notice, and to make decisions based on what I see. It sounds simple enough, but this has always been a challenge for me.

I keep wanting to solve what I see as a problem. Yet, I’m learning the solution doesn’t lie in trying to get other people to change. Maybe that’s why Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

People can be whoever they choose to be. That’s their right and their business. The only thing I can control is my own behavior. I can let go of what’s not important, put firm boundaries around what is, and use my three brains to decide which relationships are working for me and which ones aren’t.

I can also get a tattoo if I feel like it. I’ve never really been into tattoos, but “I’m noticing” tattooed on my arm might remind me to stop speculating about other people’s behavior and start choosing my own more deliberately.

I can see it now. I’ll be in the checkout line placing my groceries on the counter, and the guy behind me will say, “I’m noticing your tattoo.” He’ll look at me and smile, thinking he was so witty.

Then I’ll say, “I’m noticing you noticed.” And I’ll smile back, thinking I was wittier still.

Our little repartee will make us both feel better about this thing called life, and we’ll each leave the store believing no matter what we are struggling with, the world really is a beautiful place after all.

Maybe that’s why so many people have tattoos nowadays. Maybe they’ve stopped trying to make sense of other people’s behavior, and are focusing instead on choosing their own. I’m not going to try to figure it out, though. I’m just noticing!