Apr 3, 2007

When Good People Do Bad Things....

People, who have been hurt in a relationship, often wonder how someone they love could treat them so poorly.

I think that most callous behavior is driven by one of two explanations.

To begin with, some people are just naturally more selfish and self-centered. Some people have little empathy or respect for another person's feelings... it's all about what they want. Such individuals are often very manipulative and underhanded when it comes to love and romance. The website, lovefraud, does a great job of trying to explain such behavior.

The other explanation is probably more troubling, because it can be harder to understand.

People, who are basically empathetic and caring, can behave the same as individuals who have little regard for other people's feelings. Social science research has consistently shown that good people can do great harm when placed in wrong situation. In particular, the work of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo demonstrates how most people can be led to cause others unimaginable harm. Dr. Zimbardo discusses this phenomenon in an interview in the New York Times today. It is a must read if you want to understand how easily negative behavior can be brought about.

And when close relationships become marked by competition rather than cooperation, the same holds true - decent people can do awful things to each other.

Unfortunately, the harm done by relatively decent people probably hurts more profoundly than the harm done by more self-centered individuals. People expect selfish people to behave poorly, but when hurt comes from unexpected sources it can have a greater impact.

2 comments:

Eyes said...

I think empathy and compassion are two elements that we as a society need to promote!

Anonymous said...

A close friend of mine said to me just a few days ago that I lacked empathy when it came to him. I have been very hurt with him since he said those words to me and still feel very distort. Yet, in reading your blog you write > People, who are basically empathetic and caring, can behave the same as individuals who have little regard for other people's feelings. – So now I have to ask myself again, can it really be me?
When in my heart since he has said this to me I have told myself over and over that it just can’t be. That it’s him. But now am confused again and with great impact.