Notes Psychology

Chapter 4: See People as They Are (Mastery)

The Naive Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin loved reading and writing. In newspapers, he found the perfect outlet to improve his skills, and he did. At a young age, he wanted to display his talent. It so happened that his older brother started his own newspaper business. Benjamin worked with him for years before, but his brother would not employ him in this new venture. It required work of a serious nature that Benjamin was not qualified for.

But this did not stop the younger brother from trying. He sent letters to the newspaper under the pseudonym of a woman with a detailed backstory and strange opinions about life. The writing was good, and Benjamin’s brother wanted more. Later, Benjamin told his brother the truth but did not anticipate the anger that came his way. It dawned on him that perhaps his brother did not enjoy being tricked so much.

Eventually, Benjamin left his brother and his family to Philadelphia where he would start his own publishing business out of desperation. Promised by the major with money to start, he did not hesitate. But when he arrived, he realized that he was duped this time. The major was just a man that made empty promises to everyone.

Benjamin was broke and had no support from anyone around him but he got a job at a newspaper publisher. While he impressed at the job and got along with his coworkers, something bothered him. They had a “beer fund” that each employee had to contribute so that they could drink on the job, under the belief that this would boost productivity. But this made no sense to Benjamin, who didn’t enjoy the idea of bankrolling people’s unhealthy habits at work. So he objected to contributing to the beer fund, and they politely accepted his request.

But soon, his work was tampered with. His co-workers conspired against him. Apparently, his co-workers didn’t like Benjamin’s morally righteousness very much, particularly when it was directed at them.

The comedic element in Benjamin’s life so far was that despite his intelligence, wit, and talent – he had an underdeveloped social intelligence. He was too self-absorbed. As the second youngest child of a large family, he was used to getting his way by being witty and charming. But he soon realized that it was this charm that always got him in trouble. He was too naïve about human nature.

When you try to impress people or win them over with your charm, you often spark feelings of envy and hatred towards you. People are self-interested, and they will see your talents as a threat, rather than something to be appreciated. After learning this lesson, Benjamin understood how to become more socially effective. Instead of trying to impress people, he would adjust his behavior to his audience.

He figured out how to see things from the perspective of others, and to get out of his own head. This made others trust him more and resent him less. With a smooth social life, he could devote more energy to mastering things that really interested him. Franklin became a successful writer, scientist, and politician. And later in life, as a politician, his social skills were at their most refined point, so much so that the socially naïve could not appreciate the brilliance with which Benjamin maneuverer with foreign politicians, seamlessly blending in and catering to their narcissism perfectly.

The Cure to Naivety

We have ideals as children, about our parents and teachers and elders. We think they are perfect, but one day, reality hits us in the face. This day usually comes in our adolescent years. We react with anger against those we previously idealized and we become disillusioned. This pattern repeats itself when we join the work force, when we discover what people are really like when they are fighting for survival, we see the dark sides to their character that they hid before. And again, we become disillusioned.

Our lack of social intelligence early in our lives comes only from being disconnected from reality, whether as children or as young adults. Once we get over this naivete and see the world how it really is, we can build better relationships with people. To do so, it is necessary to understand the general patterns of human behavior, and to understand the specific patterns of a person’s behavior. The first requires an objective analytic mind, while the second requires us to be empathetic and emotional, to relate to others deeply.

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"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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