Why everyone else looks unreasonable

“Wow, he’s being a dick” is my particular shorthand for “That gentleman is behaving a little unreasonably”.

But when we see someone acting in a way which seems unreasonable, it’s important that we remember that we don’t have the full picture.

Their behaviour might be inappropriate for the current circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable.

Our behaviours have many components, two of which are: root causes and triggers.

The problem is that we often see what triggers other people’s unreasonable behaviour, but not the root cause, which gives it context.

When we see someone drop a box of eggs in the supermarket and burst into tears, it looks unreasonable. The behaviour (crying) is disproportionate to the trigger (breaking a box of eggs). But if that person had suffered a personal tragedy (root cause) earlier in the day, then the crying might suddenly look both appropriate and justified.

We all think we’re reasonable, and that it’s just other people who aren’t. That’s because we have access to our own root causes – the events and history which place our behaviour in context – but everyone else’s are hidden from us. And ours are hidden from other people.

This doesn’t mean that we have to accept behaviour from others which is rude, harmful or insincere, but it’s worth understanding that from their point of view, it might be reasonable.