Do unto others

‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, seems like a sensible adage, but I have some concerns with its application in relationships.

Of course it is wise to be compassionate and to treat people with respect, kindness and appreciation, but because we are all very different, what may be wonderful, enjoyable and nurturing for one person, may be very annoying or even debilitating for someone else.

It is true that we all need attention, care and connection, but without specific consideration for the person involved, the way we attempt to provide these things can easily go awry.

Making the assumption that you know what others want or need is a sure fire way to cause problems in any relationship. Actions which appear sensible or caring through your eyes can be viewed and received very differently by someone else.  

Without consultation, your version of attention and care may be perceived as interference or even manipulation.  Or the person you believe you are being kind to, may be insulted because they think you believe they are incapable of looking after themselves!  If someone believes you are patronizing them or taking pity on them, deep seated resentment or even anger can be triggered.   From the words of a song “I thought that you’d want what I want; sorry my dear”.

To be truly empathetic in our actions, it is important to make an effort to understand situations from another’s perspective. And because we are not mind readers, it is truly kind and considerate to ‘check in’ with someone before we move forward with our well intentioned, but maybe unwanted actions.  This important insight may seem to limit spontaneity and random acts of kindness, however if your acts of kindness are seen by the recipient as unwanted or even patronising, it may have been better to have had a conversation first.