There are mean people in the world. And there are idiots, too.


The contractor ruins your life. Your client exasperates you by changing their request, again. The business professional never replied to your email. Your employee is being unreasonable. And for reasons unbeknownst to you, the world somehow allows Justin Bieber to produce yet another song. 

Everybody is mean. No one can ever do anything right. Everyone is out to get you. 

When someone behaves in a manner incongruous to the world you wish to live in, it's easy to immediately assign motive, and to desire nothing more than to throw the perpetrator into the scorching fires of Mount Doom. 

Something that has helped me when I find myself in similar situations, is to remember an old adage, which says:

Don’t ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

Usually people don't intentionally screw you over. They just forget. Or have a lapse in judgement. 

Is it frustrating? Of course. 

But before you lie awake at night wondering why "that person" is out to get you, take a moment to give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Which leads to a very important permutation of the maxim just described: 

Don’t attribute to stupidity that which can be explained by misunderstanding.

One of the best lessons I've learned from my boss, Sarah, is when someone makes a mistake, or when someone infuriates me, is to first look at what I could have done better to help them. 

Could I have communicated something more clearly? Did I make assumptions about what the person knew, rather than taking initiative and clarifying with them beforehand? Could I have provided more support during the process? 

Yes, there are mean people in the world. And there are idiots, too.  

But when interacting with one of said individuals, take a moment to shift perspective. Is the person truly being a jerk, or are they simply incompetent? And if they're being incompetent, what could you have done better? 

It's easy to direct the spotlight toward ourselves when things go well, and point the finger at others when things go awry. It's part of human nature. We all fall prey to it.

So take initiative on behalf of others. See where you can assist the so-called evil contractor, the incompetent employee, the unruly customer. 

At many points in your life, you'll violate the very standards you hold others accountable to.