This is sort of a follow-up post to the one about how we are so blind to our own faults, the aptly named: We know all humans have some common faults, except us. After all, we can see no such faults in ourselves.
To sum up that one a bit:
We know there are common human faults and we can see them in others, but for some reason we seem to think we personally are exceptions. Since we can’t really see our own inconsistencies and faulty thinking very well, and which in some way makes us perceive ourselves as flawless.
We lie to ourselves when it adds to our current beliefs, making the world a place which is easier to understand and more comfortable (even if our belief is that everything goes to hell, since the point is often to confirm what we already believe, in other words avoiding the unknown), and to make ourselves look better in our own eyes. Or to preserve our current view of ourselves. Others helpfully with these things, and of course we help them in return. To some degree this works, we mostly don’t try to kill each other during normal social interaction even if it does happen. We tend to feel safer when those around us agree with us (echo chambers are comfortable!), despite all incidents of being the last to know because nobody told you, and if you ask why, you are only met with excuses. Others might see us clearer than we do, but they are usually of no help since they don’t tell us.
If you remember the cognitive biases, a lot of them are about (and developed because) we are herd animals on some level. They are probably necessary, and this is a funny thought, if not a very comforting one: The strange thing seen as normal social interaction based on little lies, misunderstandings and indifference, might actually be the best viable option. These lies have the purpose of making the world seem more consistent and comfortable, catering to the same cognitive biases which keeps fooling us, so they are very easy to make. We all know them. “Of course things are as you want to think they are”.
Comforting thought #2: Other people will help us lie to ourselves to be nice and since they will often see us more clearly than we do, they might be far better at telling us what we want to hear, than we are ourselves.
You can go in endless circles of interpreting and why somebody thinks this and reacts like that and be no closer to knowing what the other person actually meant (or why you believe this), since the whole thing is only best guess based on something which might be inaccurate in the first place. What you often know very fast is what to say to make the other person happy. Or unhappy. This is often learned the hard way at a very early age.
Your friends often want you to be happy, hence they go along with a lot of your bullshit even if they see it for what it is. Or they think you are more or less reasonable since they would have done the same in your place, ignoring that both of you might be just as unreasonable. Or you ‘probably had a good reason’. It doesn’t really make a difference if they understand your motives, are indifferent or don’t at all understand them, since it is very unlikely they will say so in either case. On the contrary, they are likely to agree to be nice, for a long list of reasons having to do with this not being their business and expecting your support in the future. Because this goes both ways, of course. They are just as blind and silly, but you overlook it because they can’t be expected to be without fault, they might have had a good reason you didn’t understand, and they supported you before. This makes friends and social groups a very effective echo chamber since in addition to this type interaction where the roles keep being changed, it has social ties which will help keep everybody in place. So nobody will break the ‘rules’ and say what is not appropriate for their role, it be agreeing with what is said or doing the speaking.
On top of this we have this charming habit of becoming more certain when contradicted and we learn at an early age that contradicting people leads to trouble and that it is best to only do this when it is worth it.
After millions of years of evolution, this is where we are. Apparently, this sort of works.
In the previous post I wrote something about the danger of building delusions in the direction of what makes you look better to yourself according to your ideals, but also beware of friends and groups aiding you in this task, since they will do this rather automatically and we often only notice when they don’t. (And then it is often seen as them being mean without a reason.)
In the end, just face it: We lie to ourselves and others, but this seems to be the best possible option since we aren’t good at understanding what others think anyway. I think focusing on what hampers or limits us or our interaction with what (most of us, at least) think of as the real world, should be the main concern. We are wandering collections of cognitive bias anyway. So are our friends, family and enemies. Knowing about it doesn’t seem to help, either.
Aside from becoming a hermit, maybe one just has to accept that people are a lot of things, often irrational and prone to very outdated types of behaviour. And that this includes you.
Maybe it is time to stop worrying so much about what others would think and not, while we are at it. We can’t know, and even our friends are mostly unlikely to tell us, so why worry?