How we think of others is key to every relationship we have – be it with our mother, father, sister, brother, friend or colleague.
Our underlying attitudes seep through into our social interactions, consciously but just as often, unconsciously. Are people good? Are men/women to be trusted? Are people of equal value? Am I better or worse than others?
Our prevailing underlying attitude towards other people – our “worldview” – is something we learn early in life and carry with us. It can be fundamentally positive or negative – and it affects everything.
There are really only 4 options for the fundamental way we view ourselves and others, and ourselves in relation to others – either I view myself as OK or I feel not OK; either I view you as OK, or not. Of course there are shades of intensity within these OK/not OK positions, but these are the 4 options.
This creates a 4-option matrix:
We all rotate around this matrix quite often; sometimes many times a day. Ideally most of the time we believe and feel that:
I’m OK – You’re OK
When I consider myself OK and also frame others as OK, then there is no space for me or you to be inferior or superior. We are equal.
This is, in many ways, the ideal position. Here, we are comfortable with other people and with ourself. We are confident, content and get on with other people even when there are points of disagreement.
I’m not OK – You’re OK
When I think I’m not OK but you are OK, then I’m putting myself in an inferior position in relation to you. I’m one-down.
This position may come from being belittled as a child, perhaps from a dominant controlling parent, from abuse and neglect, careless teachers or bullying peers.
We take this position when we’re experiencing particularly low self-esteem and will put others before ourselves. We may experience a strong drive to ‘Please Others’ all the time.
I’m OK – You’re not OK
When we take this one-up position we believe ourselves to be superior in some way to others, who we see as inferior and not OK. As a result, we may be contemptuous and quick to anger, or try to rescue others, or we may patronise, or talk about others in a smug or supercilious way, contrasting our own relative perfection with their limitations.
This position is a trap into which many managers, parents and others in authority fall, assuming that their given position makes them better and, by implication, that others are not as good as they are.
Often when taking this worldview there’s a strong drive to ‘Be Perfect’ at play. Our personal strivings to be perfect make others seem, to us, less perfect.
I’m not OK – You’re not OK
This worldview is when we feel threatened or bad about ourselves whilst also perceiving others as bad.
This position could also be a result of early relationships with a controlling parent or a parent who mistreated us and we come to view other people with a sense of betrayal and retribution. This may later get generalised from the original bully or dominated to all other people.
This concept of “OK-ness” also relates to blame, where we attribute fault to ourselves and others:
None of these is a very productive view to take.
Instead a more positive view is: “It’s no-one’s fault; blame isn’t the issue – what matters is how we go forward and sort things out.” (I’m OK and you’re OK – ‘happy’)
The reason it’s helpful to identify our predominant worldview and how it shifts at a given moment is because our viewpoint affects our behaviour – like this…
It’s easy to glibly say “Oh yes, I always believe everyone is equal” and we may philosophically believe that. But consider the last time you got angry and blamed someone for something. Consider what your judgment of them was. And your judgment of your own behaviour. What could you done differently that would have had a more productive outcome?
When we truly feel “OK”, we stop blaming others. We start seeing our worldview at play and notice our behaviour in each situation – and we become free to do something different next time. And how OK is that.
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