We cannot live our lives without coming into contact with other people. The thing is that we need Human contact in order to live a fulfilling life, but there will be times when you will curse others in your environment for disturbing your tranquillity. The Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome had some pretty good advice on dealing with other people. After reading some titbits from Marcus Aurelius, I’ve decided that he is one of my greatest heroes of all time. He loathed people, and yet he was a vastly successful man, because he always maintained his sense of duty! That is something I can relate to!
Every morning when Marcus Aurelius got up, he thought that today would be a day filled with annoying people. By setting himself up to face a day full of adversity and stupid idiots he would arm himself to deal with them better. If the day went by without much incident, he would feel a whole lot better, because the things he imagined that could happen, didn’t. It’s kind of a reversed psychology trick, but one I think can be really helpful. This technique is known as negative visualization and the Stoics applied this to many aspects of life. It’s a way of setting yourself up to deal with any hardships that come your way, by imagining they happen. That way, if they do, you’ll at least have imagined they would and you won’t get caught off-guard. It’s something similar to what I once heard in a movie: “Expect the unexpected.” 😉
Choosing the right company
The thing is, a lot of people will disturb your tranquillity, whether it’s a nagging boss, a colleague who’s just too stupid to understand you, or a spouse that just doesn’t get you, we all will encounter these kinds of people in our lives at one point or another. It is our way of dealing with them that is important. The Stoics believe that we should be very careful about which people we allow to become close to us and they made a clear distinction here.
You should choose your company based on shared values, and if possible, to befriend someone who is better at living by those values so we can learn from them. It’s also wise not to have many friends, but going for quality over quantity. I believe I’ve succeeded there with a handful of really close friends and my girlfriend Bren, who all share a lot of my values and some of them are doing better in some regards than I am, so I can learn a lot from them and hopefully vice versa. 😉
Happy dealing with people!
Jeffrey, How excellent a post! Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor known well by any student of history as much as Julius Caesar, Roman dictator for Life. In art history, Marcus Aurelius sits upon the equestrian statue in a very famous square in Rome. I was there in 2014. I did not know about the technique of negative visualization applied by the Stoics. I would distinguish surrounding oneself with people of like mind personally as friends & acquaintances as opposed to academic settings of intellectual exchange & debate. Also, personally, I distinguish between my five best friends for life on this earth & “professional friends” or otherwise who consider me a friend (but I do not consider them real friends). –Great discussion topic in your post today! Phil
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