How to improve your fellow humans

I have a way of improving people. If you want to improve people then you might find it useful. However you are going have to bear with me, because what I’m really saying is I believe I have a method of building successful mutually beneficial relationships with people that you would like to improve. So what I’m going to have to do first is convince you that building a relationship is necessary for effective improvement.

I’ll start by explaining the background to my thinking. I have a pattern of behaviour where I try to improve others. When I was a Christian I tried to convert people to Christianity, now that I no longer have supernatural beliefs I want to convert those with supernatural beliefs to a state of non-belief. I believe I do this so that I feel superior, so that I can validate and smooth rough edges from my own ways of thinking, and so that I don’t have to deal with the results of what are, from my point of view, bad ways of thinking.

It’s important to recognise that your motivation is unlikely to be pure. The first step in identifying your motivations is going to be separating how you feel from what you are thinking.

I often think “I am trying to convince this stranger that there is no basis for their beliefs because their beliefs are often the foundation for bigotry.” However I notice sometimes I do not get pleasure if they discard these beliefs. I get pleasure when I feel superior. I have convinced myself I am trying to help this person and the community they live in but I am actually just trying to tell everyone how wonderful I am.

I do this because while I have spent a large amount of time and energy developing my thinking. My awareness surrounding my feelings and the feelings of others is underdeveloped.

I completely ignore what the person I wish to benefit with the results of my thinking is feeling. I reluctantly allow them into the discussion, I don’t try to make them feel respected, I’m confrontational and I don’t feel responsible if I upset them. It is only when faced with the fact that all my efforts have been in vain that I really begin to analyse what I am doing.

If I think I am trying to improve someone then my actions must reflect that. Of course it makes it really hard to do when they are being just as disrespectful. There is however, no way around this, I have to lead by example or I’ll never convince anyone of anything.

I must be concerned with the feelings of this person. I must try to empower them. One way of doing that would be to ask them lots of questions about how they think/believe. I want them to perform and I do not want them to have stage fright, I cannot allow myself to point out holes in their thinking. I must allow myself to learn from what they are saying and above all else if they make me aware of any realisation they have achieved I should leave them all the credit. I should feel privileged that they felt safe enough to share their change of mind with me.

And if all I have achieved is to allow someone to express their entire belief system then I’ve done well. After all, if I’ve done my job right they will want to talk again and the next time they will be feel far more secure talking through their beliefs.