Advice: A Little Understanding Goes A Long Way

Many of our posts encourage kindness, goodness and self-control, even in negative situations. This is often hard to achieve; however, it is entirely possible due to the following psychological principle:

  1. Our thoughts affect our feelings
  2. We control our thoughts
  3. Therefore, we can control our feelings/reactions

In other words, we are responsible for our own actions. No one “makes” us react a certain way. We make a decision on our own and choose how to feel about and respond to every situation. We are in control.

It takes practice, but once you master this form of control we encourage you to incorporate understanding into your decision-making process. By understanding we mean, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and giving them the benefit of the doubt. In negative situations, try to first assume that someone’s intentions are honest. Presume innocence and maintain a favorable or at least neutral opinion in uncertain situations. Here are a few common, real-life examples to consider.

You are being tailed in your car.

  • The person behind you is following at an unsafe distance and you are afraid they are going to rear-end your car.
  • Instead of immediately assuming they are an idiot in a big hurry, and reacting negatively, think differently.
  • Maybe there is an acceptable reason for their poor driving.
  • Maybe they are having an emergency and have to get to the hospital or to the school to pick up their child.
  • Maybe they are ill and have to get to a bathroom.

Pull over and let them pass and get on with your life.


The clerk in the store is extremely unfriendly.

  • You bring your grocery items up to the cashier and he barely looks up and does not greet you. He does not take care with any of your items and displays horrible customer service skills.
  • Instead of immediately assuming he is a terrible employee, taking it personally and getting offended, think differently.
  • Maybe he just lost his best friend, his dog, or a family-member and is going through the grieving process.
  • Maybe he has been working for twelve hours without a break, is tired, hungry, and emotionally exhausted.
  • Maybe his last customer was abusive and hurt his feelings and he is trying to keep it together.

Smile and tell him you hope his day gets better and get on with your life.


An obnoxious, obese woman with body odor sits next to you on an airplane.

  • The worst possible seatmate buckles in next to you for a five-hour flight. She barely fits in her seat, talks on her phone loud enough for the pilot to hear, and opens up a bag of pork-rinds which she crunches in your ear.
  • Instead of immediately assuming that the Airplane Gods are punishing you, and start judging the woman harshly, think differently.
  • Maybe she has a medical reason for her obesity and body odor.
  • Maybe this is the first time she has ever flown anywhere, and she is beside herself with excitement, or has never learned any form of social etiquette.
  • Maybe she is flying to a funeral or has some sort of hardship that she is trying to cope with like the loss of a child, a terminal illness or some other tragedy.

Scoot over, put on your noise-cancelling headphones, rub some perfume under your nose and get on with your life.  


We love the lyrics to this song “What It’s Like” by Everlast. They illustrate our point exactly and serve as our last example. Please take a minute to check it out:

Try to be more understanding in your everyday life. As we said, you are in control. It is possible to train yourself to think before you react.  The key is to experience your immediate response . . .  let it exist and flow through you . . . but do not instantly react. Form the habit of thinking first and then choosing how to respond. Choose intelligently, not emotionally. And yes, it is ok to choose to experience negative emotions, but it won’t serve you well to inflict them on anyone else. It will serve you better to be more understanding. A little understanding goes a long way . . . 

The tailgater may offer you blessings if you let them pass, thanking you for helping them get to their emergency sooner. The store clerk may appreciate your kind words more than you will ever know as he struggles to deal with his loss in a public setting instead of in private. The woman on the plane may be just as uncomfortable as you. She may look back on her trip and think of the kind, accommodating person she sat next to.

Try to choose kindness and understanding in all that you do.


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