I originally started writing this article from the point of view of work relationships at technology companies like Amazon, but I realized that everything I was writing applied to relationships with your spouse, kids, and neighbors. Keep in mind that human relationships are just that, connections between people, which exist everywhere.
Everyone knows the concept of the witty comeback. Repeated in movies and playgrounds alike, someone’s ego is bruised by an insult. Rather than lose the interaction, the victim uses their intelligence to strike back at the aggressor, turning a hurtful situation into victory.
In movies, the hero uses this social weapon to demonstrate their superiority over the villain. Their moral standing ensures that the bystanders in the film (and moviegoers) recognize these words as honorable and justified, in contrast with the aggressive and shameful actions of the antagonist.
Best Intentions vs Reactions
Reality is not a movie script, and we have grown since our playground days. When we end up at odds with others, they are our co-workers, our bosses, our neighbors, our kids, our parents, our spouses. Our relationship battles are not good vs evil. They are instead a tangled web of exhaustion, unintended insults, fear of the future, bruised egos, and careless actions. We all start with best intentions towards others. We all internally believe that we want our spouse happy, our co-workers successful, our children thrilled to see us. Yet our natural reaction to a perceived negative act is to react in kind. We pretend that humans are highly evolved, but we often act to the contrary.
How Do You React?
John into the kitchen sink in annoyance as he finished making his coffee. Sally had yet again dumped food into the sink, leaving it to rot. It drove him crazy. He dumped dumped a pile of coffee grounds on top of the mess. That would teach her a lesson.
Susan saw the request from the recruiting group to help with the security team’s hiring event next month. She laughed and rolled her eyes. The security team had been a pain in her side all last week. They might end up being the reason she would miss her launch dates. She was incredibly frustrated. She declined the request to help with their event, adding to her response that she was too busy with her security reviews to participate.
Barry got a notification from the school that his daughter Wendy had gotten yet another D on a math test. She knew that she had to tell him if she received any bad grades, yet here he was, finding these things out on his own. He felt betrayed and angry. He went to her room and yelled at her about her poor study habits, and how he was angry that yet again she had not told him about her poor grades.
What Is Your Goal?
As a human animal, our instinctive actions lead us astray. We feel the need for revenge when someone hurts us. We feel the need to protect our social position when it is threatened. We feel the need to lash out when our ego is bruised.