03 | A Kind Response To Mean and Selfish People

You don’t have to look far to see people acting in mean and selfish ways. Is this because people themselves are fundamentally mean and selfish or is there more to it than that? And is there anything WE can do to make conditions for kinder modes of human behaviour and engagement?

We will always encounter rudeness in other people. It’s an inevitable part of life. But these people can have a big impact on our health and confidence. So what can we do about them?

This episode explores two core ideas:

  • How to build a practice of creative gentleness
  • How to build gentleness into a creative practice

We’ve got to think about both sides of this if we want to build a life of creative flow.

A Kind Response to Mean and Selfish People

Who Are These Mean and Selfish People? | 5.24

“It’s a fact of life that we will encounter rude people. It happens every day. People cut in line. They speak to other people like they are a piece of s**t. People lie and take credit for your work. Not only will this happen, but many times there will be no consequences for this.”

The Daily Stoic

It’s without a doubt tempting to label people as mean and selfish. It feels obvious that some people are that way by nature. So we engage with them accordingly.

When we use these kinds of words we then treat other people as if that’s who they are.

But this is a symptom of a fixed mindset. And it provides little wiggle room for the story to change.

Our Place in a Mean and Selfish World | 8.16

We tell ourselves a story about the way things “should” and “shouldn’t” be. And how other people should be.

It’s tempting to get caught in the spirit of the world around us. As such we might permit and even contribute to conditions that give rise to the kind of selfishness and meanness we want to get rid of.

The rebellion of gentleness is about shifting our stories of shame. Including the stories we tell about who we are, as well as the shame we bestow upon other people.


Hold Gently Within Our Encounters | 13.40

This article from the Daily Stoic says about mean and selfish people, “they’ll have to wait in line less than you. They might get promoted ahead of you after taking credit for that work. And when we see this, we are tempted to respond in a couple of ways:

  • Get angry.
  • Resent it.
  • Use it as an excuse
  • Begin to plot our revenge.

None of these reactions are Stoic. But more important, none of these reactions reduce rude behaviour in the world either.”

When we grip them too tight, the words and actions of others can consume us. And we can end up creating more of what we don’t want in the process.

How might we increase the space around the holes, corners, and cul de sacs we can ALL end up stuck in?

It can be fun to corner people who say and do things we really hate. But when we do this things can become more violent and destructive. Especially if they have to fight their way out of such a corner. This creates the conditions for a future that is not good for any of us.

The Hold of Past Guilt | 17.57

Most of us are haunted by times we didn’t do as much as we could have.

Maybe we walked past someone in need because we were too busy or we made an excuse to avoid helping out. Some of these moments stick with us. They might even wake us up at night.

These choices can stay with us and make us feel ashamed. But cruelty and callousness in actions we have taken don’t make us cruel and callous people at our core. And the same goes for other people.

Wastewater and The Creativity Faucet | 24.43

Julian Shapiro wrote about a mental model called the Creativity Faucet. It’s a way to visualise the process of generating good creative ideas.

Creativity is like a backed-up pipe of water. The first mile of piping is packed with wastewater. This must be emptied before we get to the clear water. Shapiro suggests that many of us struggle to get past our wastewater. He says, “if you’ve opened a blank document, scribbled a few thoughts, then walked away because you weren’t struck with gold, then you too didn’t get past it”.

This image speaks to the practice of gentleness too.

We can always reach cleaner, healthier, and life-giving ways of responding to the world’s wastewater. But it’s not always the first stuff to appear when we turn on the tap.


The Stoic Response to Mean and Selfish People | 27.12

“Kindness is invincible, but only when it’s sincere, with no hypocrisy or faking. For what can even the most malicious person do if you keep showing kindness and, if given the chance, you gently point out where they went wrong— right as they are trying to harm you?” — Marcus Aurelius

But is Kindness Really The Best Response To Cruel or Thoughtless Actions? | 30.20

Kindness might sound passive and weak. But what if, rather than rewarding malice and cruelty, it could actually be a source of accountability?

The word “kind” comes from kyndnes. It means nation. Kin refers to family ties. So to treat someone with kindness is to be one of a kind WITH them. We are not in separate spaces. To be kind is to respect their right to belong, and to accept them as part of the whole. Not to humiliate, shame, or shun.


Play and Your Inner-Child: Is It Time To Grow Up? | 33.57

“It takes a very long time to become young” – Picasso

Inner child and inner critic: a battle for creativity (From NessLabs.com)

I love seeing people wake up to their own creative spirit. It’s a beautiful thing when people rediscover the spark they had as a child.

Contrary to being something we should grow out of, play something we need to grow INTO. We collect all sorts of stories as we grow up, and it takes a long time to let ourselves become young again.

When Self-Doubt Fuels The Questions We Ask | 36.54

According to Anne-Laure Le Cunff, being young is about being curious. Children ask heaps of questions. But as we get older we conform to society’s focus on speed as a key performance measurement. We prioritise efficiency and productivity over the meaning and deep enjoyment we find along the way.

The only questions we DO still ask are fuelled by self-doubt and insecurity. In particular, is this right? As well as, is my work good enough? And, what will people think of this?

The inner critic wants us to conform not create. It follows the formula laid down by society, which drives us to find the ‘correct’ answer. Perhaps this is why we get stuck when the tap doesn’t yield creative ideas as soon as we turn it on.

But we can change the kind of questions we ask. And when we reconnect with our inner child, we can turn our inner critic into an inner coach.

You Don’t Need to Feel Like “A Creative” in Order to Live a Creative Life | 40.47

We don’t have to believe we are creative in order to live creatively. We just need to ask interesting questions from a place of genuine curiosity.

When it comes to bringing more gentleness into the world, it starts with a vision of what such a world might look like to us. Describe it, set the scene, and define what would be going on in that future reality. What is true in that place? What is NO LONGER true in that place?

There are No Wrong Answers When Practising Play | 42.00

“Playfulness is, in part, an openness to being a fool, which is a combination of not worrying about competence, not being self-important, not taking norms as sacred and finding ambiguity and double edges a source of wisdom and delight”.

– Maria Lugones

Playfulness is like a shock absorber. It helps us to exist beneath the weight of the world’s pressure and expectations. It gently reminds us that we are ALL fools deep down. We are ALL outsiders.

Embracing The Comfort and Joy of Failure | 45.38

I hosted a workshop in The Haven Courtyard where we examined the creativity faucet. We did an exercise which had failure baked into it.

The point of the session was to get more comfortable with not having all the answers. And to enjoy failing as part of the play.

In a world of binary boxes, it feels scary to risk getting things wrong. But if we don’t feel safe getting things wrong, we don’t have the conditions for creativity to grow. What if we could not only tolerate but actually find ways to enjoy our failures?

If we can do this we can choose how we want to respond to all kinds of mean and selfish words and actions.

Conclusion: Humiliation is Never a Productive Option | 27.12

It’s tempting to react to mean and selfish people by seeking power over them. Be it intellectual or physical dominance. But when people are backed into corners they lash out. They fight back. And they look for a way out of the hole they’re in.

As justifiable as it may feel, humiliation can not be the recipe for a better world. Conversely, it just makes things worse.

It’s time to change the scripts that we follow. So how do we get out of our own way and make room for new stories of gentleness to emerge through the gaps?

The Haven | 53.18

Join me to go deeper in exploring how to build healthier, happier rhythms in the face of a hostile world.

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