Being The Bigger Person

“If you are not direct with someone about the issue and decide to go behind their back, they may think less of you and to not apologize or at least make the effort to because they will be surprised that there was even an issue to begin with.”

Sadly, some people never grow out of the ‘high school’ or ‘college’ phase of their lives. They become accustomed to gossiping or making conjecture about other people behind their backs and without their knowledge. This is often childish behavior and should be called out as such. If you have a problem or an issue with someone, you should address it in a mature manner, and directly if feasible as an adult. To not do so and to opt to gossip or slander someone’s reputation, even if justified, can often make the situation worse, not better.

There’s nothing wrong with speaking out about a kind of grievance or a specific problem you may have with another person but to do so in terms of gossip or hearsay is wrong. When you decide to ‘go through the grapevine’, it can often insult the person on top of the problem you already have with them and cause the problems to escalate rather than to be solved. If you are not direct with someone about the issue and decide to go behind their back, they may think less of you and to not apologize or at least make the effort to because they will be surprised that there was even an issue to begin with.

If the issue is valid and there is a real concern there, the best way to do it as adults is directly or with a third party directly involved to the ease the tension. If you go through a third party or a third person and then the person you have an issue with hears about it from them, I tend to think that will make them think less of you for having told a third person or party about the problem rather than going to that third party and to you at the same time. To do so professionally can cause problems but to do so in your personal life in the wrong manner can rupture a friendship or a family tie even worse.

When it comes to interpersonal relations, if someone has an issue with you, justly or unjustly, you should always advocate for that issue to be worked on directly whether with just the two parties involved or with a third party, who is supposed to be neutral in weighing the arguments or grievances from both parties. When you have someone as a third party who only hears one side of the story and then already makes a judgment without consideration of the other person’s perspective or viewpoint, then that is also a cause for concern in alleviating the situation.

Indirect grievances or gripes, conveyed to a third party indirectly, with the person or people you have issue with not even hearing from you about it at all can cause further annoyance especially when they feel that their reputation or their livelihood is at risk. I am an advocate for direct communication as much as possible even when the matter at hand can cause offense. It is simply better for both parties to hear each other out and to see if a resolution can be had, especially with a third party as an intermediary who does not make a premature judgment before both persons can be heard fairly.

If one side is not playing fair and is distorting the truth or completely lying about you or what happened, you have the right to defend both your honor and your reputation. You should air your side of the story and make sure the truth is heard. You should not gossip in retaliation or spread falsehoods ever about that person to get even if they have lied or gossiped or spread slander about you. That is what ties into the notion of ‘being the bigger person’ in interpersonal relations. You should not look to score cheap points or to get even or to go down to their level.

You must rise above their childish or teenage behavior and to be the only adult in the room if it comes to that. People’s perception of you or of your reputation does matter a lot especially if you’re a leading member of a community, a state / region, or a country. Even if what you think is gossip or conjecture should not be taken seriously or with a ‘grain of salt’, other people may not take it the same way and your reputation will be harmed as a result. Indirect complaints or problems can often cause bigger issues to emerge because it creates a toxic atmosphere of distrust or ill will especially when one person’s side of the story is not being heard at all, or they can’t find a neutral third party to issue a conclusion or a verdict, or when they would prefer to deal with the problem or issue at hand directly.

It’s often harder to be the ‘bigger person’ in any dispute or issue because some folks want to commit childish actions because they know it will be popular to do so. As odious as ‘gossiping’ is, some adults never grow out of that stage and act like children still even if they are of middle age or even elderly. They want to bring you down to their level in a way and get you to do the same kind of indirect gossip and conjecture as they do, but you should avoid that at all costs.

If you can make a dispute directly with that person in return or find fault with their argument(s), make sure you find a neutral third party to hear you out especially if they heard from that other party without you even knowing. It’s important to not let your guard down in a dispute and protect your reputation to the best of your ability and use the truth and the facts to outweigh the gossip and the falsehoods you may encounter. Being the bigger person is never easy, but it will show to others that you are able to deal with criticism in a healthy and mature manner.

Overreacting by getting upset or using the same ill-advised gossip as they do is a recipe for disaster and for that one issue to lead to multiple other issues. Resolve any dispute or issue that you may find yourself in with the truth of the matter, the straight facts, and to deal with the other party directly. Do not rely upon hearing something suspect, through the ‘grapevine’ as some others prefer to do and accept it without any reservations or questions. Those who accept this kind of conjecture without any pushback or evidence or getting the facts from both sides shows that they may not have matured as much as they think even after having left their high school grounds or their college campus.

The Need to Have a Social Conscience

Keeping with what’s been going on in the world lately, I believe it’s important to reinforce just how important it is now and into the future the need to have a social conscience. What do I mean by a social conscience? Boiling down the formal definition to even simpler terms, it is the feeling derived from caring for others more than yourself. You feel the urge to put others’ needs before your own. It does not mean to stop caring for yourself and taking care of your daily needs but to think of others who rely on you and to put them first especially for family members and friends.

However, having a social conscience goes beyond just our family and our friends. It goes for our immediate society as a whole whether it is the community you live in, the nation you reside in, or the world you inhabit. You feel responsible for what goes on outside of your own life and those of family and friends to think of a larger picture. To have a social conscience is to see beyond your own problems and to see the injustices that continue to plague our world.

You also have to realize that your problems while difficult or not unique and others are going through the same tribulations as you are and sometimes worse. Having a social conscience involves putting yourselves into the shoes of other people and to realize how they could possibly be helped and how you personally can be involved in assisting them. Showing concern for others is the right way to have a social conscience and also to think about how these injustices can be resolved. Any individual can make a difference by having a social conscience and by taking it upon themselves to change their behavior to reflect their new attitude.

How do you show your social conscience? There are numerous ways to do so and you could even put them on a scale from small actions to large movements designed to change the foundations of the society. In the case of a social conscience, I find that it’s like exercising your body. You don’t want to take on too much weight or distance at first for weightlifting or running. You should rather want to start small and build up your actions over time and to be more ambitious.

For some examples, starting off small with your social conscience can include environmental stewardship, collecting donations, or getting involved in your local community. Any of these actions can create a ripple effect and can cause a shift in societal behavior for others to follow your lead or for the actions to spread to other people and even communities based on how consistent and courteous you are with these goodwill efforts. For environmental stewardship, it could be recycling your own bottles and cans each day and getting your neighborhood to do so as well.

You can also plant trees and install solar panels on your house if able to gather momentum from smaller actions. Donating your own clothes or extra food can lead to organizing food drives or even creating your own organizations to help collect donations in your town or city. Leading a local trash pickup event can lead to other future leadership roles for yourself such as running for your child’s PTA (parent – teacher association) board to running for the town / city council board seat. Social consciousness does not have to encompass all of humanity but rather as the popular saying goes, “think globally, act locally.”

As long as you are having a positive impact on the life of another person, you are exercising your social consciousness. The more you do it, the more natural it is, and it becomes your routine or habit. Your first time donating your old clothes to the Salvation Army becomes a monthly habit. Your first-time volunteering at the local food bank becomes a weekly occurrence. Helping others feels good and it can lead to you doing it more often so why not give it a try? A social consciousness does not have to extend to everybody in the world all at once but the actions you do locally can definitely ripple out and stand as a positive example for others to implement in their own communities.

If you would like to get involved globally, there are an almost infinite number of opportunities to study, teach, work, and volunteer in non-governmental organizations and local non-for-profits in important areas such as education, health care, infrastructure and the environment. Spending time to educate yourself on the culture, history, politics, and the society of other places around the world will help better inform you of the injustices and problems of your own. No human society is perfect but there are small improvements that each day we can choose to perform to make it a little bit better than it was before.

Even when you are not in a position of local, national, or even global leadership, you can elect to pay attention to the problems that must be solved, form your position on the issues by being educated and choosing your sources of information carefully and then choose to vote and elect those leaders who have a social conscience. You will know if they have one or not by not only of what they advocate for but how they have advocated for these issues and who they have surrounded themselves with. A person with no social conscience cares for no one but himself and his own brood. Their friends are disposable to them and they care nothing for others beyond what they can do for him or her and how their own prospects can be improved. A person without a social conscience deserves to lead nobody and not be followed by anyone.

A socially conscious leader cares for the least among them and feels their pain as his or her own. While they have not experienced pain or misery as those whom he or she advocates for, he can listen to them, see what they say based on those experiences, and come to an educated decision on how to best fix the problem and work with those who are experts in that field to solve the issue as best as humanly possible. Social conscious behavior is so key to have when it comes to be a leader of a community or a nation and it is unfortunately neglected as of late when it comes to judging the men and the women we put into positions of influence and power.

As long as people err in their own behavior and judgment, there will be manmade problems and injustices. What someone with a social conscience can do is to do their best to continue to fight for justice and solve those problems in any way they can. Rather than focus on 100 problems at one time, it is best to focus one’s attention at 1 or 2 big problems that can be solved in time and that can gain popular support from the community after receiving the facts of why and how the injustice exists. Keep educating yourself on the injustices and the problems that exist in your world and decide how you want to push our world back towards the ‘arc of justice’ that our conscience and actions should bend to as Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently put it. We only have a finite amount of time on this planet and if we can right some wrongs and create justice where there was little or none before then we are doing our small part to make this world a better and fairer place.

The Need for Critical Thinking

Facts are a tricky thing, but the importance and recognition of them is vital in order to consider yourself a critical thinker. In this era of ‘alternative facts’ and opinionated media, it’s necessary to be able to read, analyze, and think about all of the information that you’ve been taking in and figure out for yourself if it’s truthful or nonsense. In this day and age, opinions are easy to find everywhere but what have become harder to find are the cold, hard facts. The famous expression, “take it with a grain of salt” can be applied to you if you want to be a critical thinker.

The first thing you have to do, as a critical thinker is to be able to sort out the facts from the falsehoods. You should be able to use more than one source of information and before you use those sources of information, you need to verify that they are both unbiased and trustworthy. The evidence that you gather for these facts have to be based off of real sources, who have compiled the information and verified its’ authenticity.

For example, if you’re a Chemistry student and you’re trying to do an experiment on making a chemical volcano, would you choose to get the information from an actual scientist who has their PhD and teaches Chemistry at a local university or would you trust the advice of a best friend in your Science class instead?

While it’s desirable to be a good friend and trust them because they would like to help you most likely, it’s likely their advice will pale in comparison to the Chemistry professor with the PhD who wrote a ‘how to’ article on chemical experiments in the latest edition of ‘Science Weekly.’ If you’re a critical thinker, you would choose option #2 100% of the time because you would like to create an experiment that’s going to be the best that it can be and using your friend’s advice won’t get you to that point.

Regardless of what professional or educational field that you decide to pursue, you’re going to need critical thinking. Being inherently skeptical at first of the information you’re receiving is important to do because you need to be able to discern if what you’re reading, watching, listening to, etc. is factual. In your daily life, you’re going to need to identify prejudice, bias, propaganda, etc. that you’re likely to encounter in your daily life. You have to do your best to discern fact from fiction even if it takes some time. You could decide to ingest every bit of information that you see in the news or at the office as being factual but it would benefit you instead to deep a bit digger by doing your research, verify the source(s), bounce it off other pieces of information to see if there’s a pattern, and then decide if it’s factual.

A true critical thinker is not lazy and does not take shortcuts. He or she goes the extra mile to gather the right information, prioritize it to give it credence in your decision-making, and then recognize, solve the problems in order to move on to the next goal. If you’re in a field where you’re working with data on the computer, you have to be able to interpret it, evaluate it, and then use it for your business or company’s needs. By being able to communicate effectively and clearly is also a necessity when it comes to being able to take those fresh facts you’ve verified and then pass it on to the next person so they know that they’re not being misled by you.

As a critical thinker, it’s also necessary to disregard generalizations made about complex topics, which require in-depth research and analysis. Instead, critical thinking also necessitates the ability to draw conclusions from the evidence and the facts that you have gathered. Then, you have to be able to pass those conclusions on to the right people so they know what’s true and what’s false.

Conclusions that you’ve made in the past can sometimes change in the present or in the future so it’s vital to not be stubborn about your beliefs. Critical thinking requires that you also be flexible in your beliefs especially if you’re able to take in new evidence, and logic. A man or a woman who does not change their views on anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary cannot consider himself or herself to be a true critical thinker. While it can be difficult to let go of your innate biases and prejudices, you still should be open-minded and be able to accept the truth and the facts even if they contradict with yours.

If your mother, someone who you loved and respected, happened to have told you one day that the sky was the color red instead of blue, would you accept her statement at face value or would you go outside of the house to check, verify her statement to see if it was true or false? If you are not a critical thinker and a great son, you would choose option #1 and believe that statement without actually checking to see if it’s true. If you are a critical thinker but still a good son, you would choose option #2 and tell your mother later that the sky is actually blue because you went outside to see its’ color for yourself. Even if your mom might be offended by your conclusion, she would still love and respect you for being a critical thinker as is necessary.

To put it bluntly, there are a lot of people out there in different industries that are not critical thinkers and they’re hoping the same about you. I don’t want to name names but you’re likely to encounter them in your neighborhood, your city, and your city. However, if you’re able to develop the right personal habits and characteristics, you’ll be able to set yourself apart as a real critical thinker rather than just a person who believes what he hears, reads, or listens to all of the time regardless of the source it’s coming from.

Those habits involve being a problem solver, an evidence gatherer, a decision maker, a rational thinker, being able to reason with others, and an inquisitive learner above all else. While critical thinking isn’t mandatory in life, you’ll still go a lot further and succeed more when you put those skills and habits to use when compared to those who don’t. If you’re an open-minded, intelligent, mature, and inquisitive person, you’ll turn out to be a good critical thinker and a positive example for others to follow.

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